Observing Burns Night

Scotland is possibly my favorite country (apart from my own). I used to have a map of the country on the wall above my bed. I’ve always wanted to celebrate Burns Night, but going to a Burns Night supper was definitely not in the cards this year. So I threw my own celebration and traveled to Scotland from home.

I hosted my church’s poetry group this month, which gave me the idea for the fake trip to Scotland in the first place. I lead them in a discussion of Robert Burns and his poems and songs, which meant I read through (and listed to) many of them beforehand. It was wonderful sharing the poems I chose with friends and hearing all their thoughts as well. We ended the night by listening to a version of Auld Lang Syne by my favorite Scottish singer, Steve McDonald.

Even though I had another meetup on Burns Night and couldn’t attend any online events, I still managed a proper fake trip on January 25, Rabbie Burns’ birthday (a day more Scots celebrate than their official national day).

Naturally, there had to be haggis. But, as a vegetarian and an American, that wasn’t going to be easy to acquire. I did find some at the Scottish Gourmet USA, but with shipping it was more than I could presently afford. A friend of mine got me a can/tin of vegetarian haggis eight years ago as a housewarming present, and I have kept it around since as a display piece as it is no longer good to eat. I attempted to call up a local Scottish store I frequented when I was in the height of my love affair with Scotland, but their phone number was disconnected. I checked their Facebook page to see if they were still in business, and it hadn’t been updated in a while. Instead, I found a photo of a politician I detest endorsing the store, and I just couldn’t bring myself to investigate any further. So I moved on to plan C: amazon. I found tins of vegetarian haggis available for purchase, though also a bit pricier than I’d hoped. Luckily, I had some Amazon gift card credit. It arrived in more than enough time for my celebration.

My Choices

Meal: The vegetarian haggis looked appalling in and out of the tin. As I scooped some into a microwavable dish, I tried to convince myself that it was made with ingredients I loved and was not, in fact, dog food. I was only mildly convincing. I also roasted some vegetables in the oven (potatoes, carrots, and squash). After a fourth or fifth round of heating and stirring the haggis, it actually didn’t look quite so bad. I was still sort of terrified by it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted it. I didn’t love it (too many spices) but I definitely didn’t hate it. I have already had seconds. The roasted vegetables were definitely my favorite however (just roasted with a little vegetable oil, no salt or seasonings added). Dinner

Dessert: Nothing says “Scottish sweet” to me like Walkers shortbread, so I got a package of those at the grocery store and ate two cookies with a small amount of vanilla ice cream leftover from my new year’s eve celebration.


Music: I put together a playlist (that is 6 hours long) of all my Steve McDonald music. I started with my favorite song, “The Hundred Pipers,” and then set it on random. I forgot to take out the winter holiday music, but that was all right because it made me think of last month’s fake trip to the fictional North Pole. I’ve been listening to the playlist off and on for a week now and remembering how easily these songs find their way into my heart. I could listen to bagpipes every day and still love them!

Steve McDonald albums

Book: Because I read so many Burns poems, I’m counting them toward my reading for the trip. As I ate, I listened to actor Gareth Morrison recite Burns’ “Address to a Haggis.”

Movie: At first, I was worried because I have seen a lot of Scottish movies. Was there a good one accessible to me that I hadn’t seen yet? After some thought, I remembered the second Trainspotting movie. I had been avoiding Ewan McGregor movies when it came out, but now that I’m back on that horse, I gave it a watch. I’ve had Irvine Welsh’s book, Porno, on my Mt. To Be Read bookshelf for an embarrassingly high number of years. It is still there, in fact, but I felt it was all right to watch the movie first as I saw the original Trainspotting numerous times before reading that book. T2 swiftly took me back to the original, not only because of the characters and the unique style, but because of the numerous direct flashes back to it in through visuals and music. It was interesting to catch back up with them and see how they’d gotten on for twenty years. There was still a lot that made me uncomfortable, but it was also a strange joy to see these characters again. I think I liked T2 better for many reasons, chiefly because there was more accountability and less literal shite. I am considering watching it again with the director’s commentary track later this week.