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Thursday, January 23, 2014

How To Host A Burns Night Supper.




Disclaimer: A: I have never actually hosted a 'Burns supper'.
Disclaimer B: 'I have only ever been to one formal Burns supper in my life.'
(historically they were for  men only and the traditional ones which I would like to go to, still are)

Firstly, bag your haggis. This is best done at least a  fortnight before as like all the best game, the Haggis needs time to hang so as to develop its  full flavour. 
The haggis shoot is a clandestine affair in Scotland, tipped off by a nod and a wink, as those last few remaining Haggae are protected by law and like the Queen's swans, those who trespass against their safety will face stiff penalties and more than one night in the clink.
It is courtesy to pity those whose Burns suppers consist of the artificial supermarket fare which so many people now accept as a legal substitute. 




The Burns supper was instigated in 1801 five years after the death of Scotland's most famous poet when nine of his close friends gathered together in a low whitewashed thatched cottage to break bread, drink copious amounts of whisky, reminisce about their friend and recite his works. 

It was such a jovial evening that they agreed to meet up the following year. Word spread and by 1806 Oxford University were hosting their inaugural Burns Supper, four years later London picked up the baton and by 1812 it had spread to India and Canada. Today we still gather in the dark of winter to celebrate his life and his works which remain a beacon to freedom and a love of humanity.



Basic ingredients:
1.The Haggis, mashed neeps and tatties (potatoes and turnips), 2.Whisky (one bottle per person is the preferred ratio in Scotland) and selected poems of Robert Burns ( I find them incomprehensible but hard liquor is an excellent Rosetta stone.)
3. A touch of tartan -  it is  usually considered a bit naff   to sport tartan of an evening  out  in Scotland, so gaun yersel'.

Order of Service: here.


Whatever you do, the most important caveat is not to dwell too much on the hideous  contents of said haggis, just enjoy the richly unctuous taste and remember how grateful  for it you would  be if you were a  Scots peasant. 



One of my favourite elements is the dripping sarcasm displayed between the lads and the lasses. This is a historical throwback to 
our Norse heritage and the once popular spectator sport of flyting where  poets hurled foul insults at each other wrapped in barbed prose. 
GSL and Curator would be the Federer and Murray of this art  if it were ever revived.


Slainte mhath,
 have  a good weekend!










  


71 comments:

  1. I'll skip the meal and go straight to the booze.

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  2. I have attended a few Robbie Burns dinners and the highlight for me is always the men in kilts!
    Oh and the pipers!

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    1. Hostess- I can't bear kilts! Unless it's at the rugby and they are worn with big socks, stout boots and a jumper.

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    2. Or no jumper? :-) Or is that just the burly American Scots?

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  3. Hi Tabs, I think the last 'Burns Supper' I went to was in my son's 6th grade classroom, so obviously no whisky. Actually, I don't think I've ever been to a proper one with all the bells and whistles. Thanks for the info!

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  4. How fascinating! I feel like you just let me into a secret clubhouse.

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  5. I guess I could never attend as I am not a Scottish man but I'd like to be a fly on the wall!

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    1. Of course you could Dani!

      Patricia, I want to go to one of the traditional ones, I don't like the watered down version.

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    2. Oops, Dani, as in there are many around now which have both men and women attending.

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    3. I think I'd still rather be a fly on the wall, I'd be a very wimpy attendee: no scotch and no haggis for me.
      I'll tell you who would do well with it: MrBP, no surprise there.

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    4. Scotch revolts me but a big plate of buttered neeps and tatties is delicious Dani.

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  6. I like the plaid, the potatoes and the whisky!

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  7. Never been to one either and keep meaning to either host one but gets lots in the January mood! But I feel like I would need a proper Scot in attendance to make it work??

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  8. I've been to a number of Burns Suppers and love all the rituals and will again on the 8th at our Saint Andrew Society's at the Union League Club. One year I even got to lead the Haggis procession by carrying our mascot 'Old Balle' an old ram's head procured from a Scottish castle in the mid 1800s.
    Oh Curator, just let me know when you think you're ready.

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    1. I was born ready GSL. In fact this, as my husband knows only too well, is my mantra - Je suis né pour faire chier le monde, et je doit accomplir ma mission. Rhetoric is always much more fun in French.

      Can I be Caroline Wozniacki, or Maria Sharapova though.

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    2. And it begins, I'm giggling again, yes you can be a girl, I'll allow it.

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    3. Sharapova on clay in French? You'll spank me in straight sets

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    4. ...in English I'll spank you across my knee and let your husband watch.

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    5. Ha! With a cheeky revers à deux mains. Amorti!

      Keep up GSL.

      Tabs, keep tabs.

      "New balls please!"

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    6. Then they'll make lovely dangly earrings, as I see you have no further use for them.

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    7. I think you're mistaking me for the twee fellow in the top pic. I never lack for a filly to give mine a good polish.

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    8. Ok. Time for a toweling down and some juice I think. Don't want you to pull a ham string old chap.

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    9. I knew you two were perfect for this, take a bow chap and chapette!

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    10. Wow,where did this twosome spring from,this Saassenach's imagination is on overdrive......they would make a fortune as a duo on any party night.

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  9. Oh, very interesting. Burns is my maiden name. Many of his old books and writings have come to us from forefathers.. sounds like a good excuse to share them.

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  10. GSL - I knew you would be up for bit of verbal sparring.

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  11. I think this could really take off in California. But it would have to be tofu haggis, of course. And the whiskey would have to be from Sonoma. They'd better get cracking, up in wine country.

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  12. Oh, NEEPS and TATTIES! Not had that for a bajillion years.
    Haggis, no. Isn't it reserved only for tourists?

    Kilts, just make me think of school.

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    1. C: I love haggis, I eat it all year, ever since I was young I have devoured platefuls of its oaty goodness, ( cannot think too much about the other) my local butcher makes an excellent one and I could also live on neeps and tatties.

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    2. It's offally good. But no.

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    3. You're on a roll Curator!! Laughing out loud. Cheers, Kate

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  13. Oh I'll not get between Curator and GSL - they are already on to spankings and brass balls...

    There is always a dinner here as NB is very Scottish. As a McLeod we are all for kilts and scotch and haggis, though I've never had the latter done proper! However, I will drink the scotch and wear my McLeod tartan proudly for our Robbie!

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  14. loved the interesting post. Both my husband and I are at least 1/2 Scottish, and didn't know all these details.

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  15. I've read Burns and George MacDonald quite a bit. I am happy to have whiskey any time but alas I don't enjoy overdoing it. I have never had Haggis. Thanks for this bit of history.

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  16. loving all the tartan. love the comments more. x

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  17. Our local Sottish bar used to have a Burns Night, with haggis, tatties, neeps, poetry, bagpipes, skits, and some years, Irvine Welsh. It was always wild.

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    1. princess lambchop - that's sounds like an excellent bar.

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  18. Gorgeous top pic. I have always said you better be well turned out if you wear plaid 'cause no one is going to be looking at your face. I guess I will have to bring a flask of martinis (as they do wonders for me like medicine).

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  19. We've attended a couple of Burns Nights, generally in aid of some charity. I thought about hosting a party to serve haggis, etc and whiskey but friends invited us to a Rotary function (in aid of charity) and so we'll be going with that. I enjoy the food (we have haggis very occasionally for no other reason than we like it), not so much the whiskey and I rarely understand much of what is spoken.

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  20. I'm there! I absolutely love haggis and have been searching high and low for some plaid (blackwatch tartan?) trou so am celebrating in spirit...or do you need to do the red and black tartan?

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  21. I have never tasted haggis before... I think I will stick with the potato & turnip! Curator and GSL's little exchange above deserves applause!

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  22. Our club has a Robbie Burns night as a number of Scots live in Oakville. But as one of my club mates pointed out, it rather looks like the cast of Cocoon there so I'll have a wee dram and read To a Mouse on my own. Love the tartan, though.

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  23. I have been to several Burns diner here in Luxembourg!!!! They were organized by the Scottish association, but yet, not sure that they were proper ones: women were welcome...

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  24. Haggis is ready supported by a haunch of venison. Just cannot get the outfit you have shown us together! Super post...thank you now to print off my home made R B menus.What fun!

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  25. Hard liquor as Rosetta Stone--hahaha-- love this!

    I think I could try haggis if calorically deprived for a day or two.

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  26. McQueen and SJP ..wow ..

    Id love to go to the dinner....Auld Lang Syne makes me cry

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  27. Omg (as the young people say). I saw the SJP McQueen creation up close and in person at the Alexander McQueen exhibit held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, and it was the most divine creation ever. Ever.
    We used to have a restaurant here in town that did an authentic Burns night supper, although the owner was Irish. Every year he held a limerick contest (Burns themed of course) & Mr. C&G would always win (he's a witty one, aside from being a smashing bartender). I'll have to dig it up.
    Sadly he's gone out of business and now the only haggis we can get is in a can from the British store up in Freeport. And there's not enough whiskey in our extensive collection to get either one of us to eat it. Cheers!

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  28. Damn, I've missed the haggis shoot again this year.

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  29. smr- me too, I avoid that song like the plague it's such a tearjerker - at least until that mad part at the end.

    columnist - there have been good innings too, up in the 'shires.

    Cocltails and Gelato - Irish is close enough, I bet it was a good night.

    Lane - I really love it and didn't eat meat for about 20 years! It tastes delicious.


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  30. That means Ive been t more Burns suppers than you! LOL One I attended also served cock-a-leekie soup, but I understand that needs not be part of the traditional Burns supper.

    Have a great weekend!

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  31. Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r,
    Thou's met me in an evil hour;
    For I maun crush amang the stoure
    Thy slender stem:
    To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
    Thou bonnie gem.

    Slainte! Can't say that I'm all that fond of haggis and I prefer a wee dram of Glayva to the venerable uisge beatha. I know - I'm a peasant. My dad was born in Ayr just down the road from Alloway and taught me this stanza when I was a wee bairn. Loved it ever since. Hopeful of visiting the old country one day.

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  32. Rose - you and Steph both have!

    Ann - you see I don't understand a single word of that. Oh I don't like Glayva either, I'll stick to bourbon.

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    1. He stepped on a flower. What would he think of Sean Parker and the redwoods?!

      Gotta love Burns. :) I love that painting of him. We have a copy in an Irish bar here.

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  33. Informative and a great laugh,my first pair of trousers,wait for it were tartan trews which I had to keep hidden from g/mama would have caused the vapours.....wonder why they were called trews??

    Forgive me going off piste.....re walking puppies over-exercising growing pups can damage its developing joints.The Dachshund Breed club have a free e-book Buying & owning a Dachshund which I found helpful..www.dachshundbreedcouncil.org.uk.Myself have always had wirehaired standard,Oska is my first minature he is one lovable rascal.

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    1. Judith - thank you so much for popping back with this info, I hadn't heard of this before and was quite surprised by it.

      The word, trews just puts a smile on my face.

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  34. I am stuck in my bed with a wee touch of plague, but otherwise Burns night looks like welcome midwinter warmth of spirit.
    I think most of us in cold climes found an excuse to get together,enjoy local
    food and beverage, and happily hurl insults in your local colors. Over here its called the Superbowl.

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    1. Tabitha, in case you are wondering about the Sean Parker reference:

      http://valleywag.gawker.com/the-full-damage-of-facebook-billionaire-sean-parkers-f-511236497

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  35. Thanks Sherree, will check it out when I have a min.

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  36. "but hard liquor is an excellent Rosetta stone" ...ha ha love it. And it is true!

    There's a pub here in town that does a Robbie Burns night, we went once years ago, it was fun. However, we are having friends over for Hubs' (early) birthday party tomorrow night, so I must get some Scotch to celebrate as Hubs has some Scottish genes on my father-in-law's side.

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  37. perfect event!! very well organized!

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  38. Thank you so much for the kind words today, Tabitha! I love your blog because it allows me to escape across the pond... I have never heard of Burns Night or Haggis... So fascinating!!

    XOXO,
    The Glam Pad

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  39. I was at a burns supper in a military location. The evening was amazing I was dressed to the nines but I was sadly with the greatest creep who ever lived. What a disappointment but it was a stunning evening

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  40. I love haggis, I've still got the horn and silver spoon that I used to eat it with as a child!
    Rabbie would turn in his grave at the sight of those tartan dresses!

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remember your manners.