Great Scott! There is excitement on the horizon for Scotch-blooded Canadians this winter.
On October 19, 2017, the Scottish Government released a statement confirming that for the first time in 46 years, Scotland will once again be exporting haggis to Canada. Haggis, an iconic Scottish delicacy, was banned in Canada and the United States in 1971; however, a UK company, Macsween of Edinburgh has recently developed a new haggis recipe that meets Canadian regulations – just in time for Robert Burns Day.
Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (a.k.a. the heart, liver and lungs) minced with onions, oatmeal and spices. This mixture is then boiled in the sheep’s stomach. The legal trouble with haggis involves these traditional ingredients: according to a controversial law enacted by the Canadian Food and Drug Administration, livestock lungs – including sheep – cannot be used for human consumption.
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An article published by the National Post entitled “The offal truth: Haggis returns to Canada — but the Canadian government made sure it won’t be authentic” references “scrapie,” a degenerative illness that is a close cousin of mad cow disease as a possible reason for the 1971 ban; a reason that according to Scotland’s Daily Record has “no scientific evidence.”
Nevertheless, for nearly five decades, Canadians have had to celebrate Robert Burns Day without their beloved Scottish haggis. That is until Macsween of Edinburgh came up with an alternative. Although not entirely authentic – sheep’s heart has been substituted in place for sheep’s lung – the similarity is pure dead brilliant. “It’s as close as we can get to the original recipe using different meats because the oats and spice mix are the same,” Macsween’s commercial director David Rae told U.K. media as reported by the National Post. The traditional “obsession with lungs” has been known to cause a great divide amongst haggis makers, consumers and lovers alike. However, Macsween’s recent announcement is great news for any Scot-loving Canadians who for the first time in more than 40 years can add Scottish Haggis to their annual ‘Burns Supper’.
After all, “beggars cannae be choosers.”
So, who is this famous Scotsman who helped spread the love of all things Scottish? Robert Burns was a lyricist and poet, widely regarded as being the “national poet of Scotland and a pioneer of the Romantic movement.” In the years after Burns’ death in 1796, a group of his friends started a tradition in his honour that became an international phenomenon. According to an article published by Radio Canada International, “the first recorded Burns Suppers took place in 1801 and featured a few close friends of the writer who got together to mark the fifth anniversary of his death.”
It is with the spirit of food and friends that Robert Burns Day has been celebrated every January 25th for the past two centuries.
Will you be celebrating Robert Burns Day with Macsween’s Scottish haggis this year? We’d like to hear more about your plans in the comments below.