Our theme for the month of July is “stunt journalism.” Writers were asked to try something new, take on a challenge, or perform some other interesting feat strictly for the purpose of writing about it.
This is Jake’s last post with us, so a special thanks and a warm goodbye goes out to him today. Jake has been writing with us since the very beginning in July 2013.
Reporter on the beat, I’ve just left Edinburgh, Scotland yesterday for London. I’m participating in a dissertation workshop that’s held among the University of Edinburgh, Oxford, and Notre Dame. This trip, then, has provided me the occasion to try a notorious curiosity of Scottish cuisine: The Haggis.
I’m barreling down towards the final year (maybe two) of my PhD, so this post is my last as a regular contributor to the post calvin. Things have come full circle, in a way: from the first year of this blog, I felt something of a national homebody amid the travel narratives of other contributors, and now I leave on a travel note of my own.
This trip is my first across the Atlantic, and while my expressed purpose here is to accelerate my PhD time-to-completion, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also here for the food.
As such, my first meal off the plane, jet-lagged as I was, consisted of No. 1 Grange Road’s “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties Tower.” I figured I better get the most touristy meal out of the way before my itinerary began in earnest, though I sought to experience the national dish as soon as time permitted. The smashed turnips (neeps), the mashed potatoes (tatties), and the haggis itself—sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver, and lungs), onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt—did not disappoint. And while such a dish, traditionally cooked in an animal’s stomach, might turn the stomachs of some diners, I found the meal irresistible in its strangeness.
The slight sweetness of the neeps, and comfortable familiarity of the tatties, and the whiskey sauce created a great balance to the somewhat spicy, robust haggis, which tasted quite similar to a breakfast sausage. Taste aside, though, the meal occupies a singular space as a beloved symbol of Scotland, made famous most of all by national poet Robert Burns. So when in Rome, right? I leaned in and enjoyed the ride, letting this infamous dish become an early memory on a rare travel opportunity.
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
For the last time (at least for now), this is Jake. Signing off.
Jacob Schepers (Calvin ’12) is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (2014), a winner of the 2013 Outriders Poetry Project competition. His poetry has appeared in Verse, The Common, PANK, The Destroyer, and others. He lives in South Bend, IN, with his wife, Charis, and two sons, Liam and Oliver. He is both an MFA student and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame.