Food plays a central role in our culture with specific types of food becoming synonymous with a country or cultural movement. This is often used as a means of ridicule, such as the French referring to English people as roast beef, or that period in time when my mate Ben used culinary-based insults when getting into arguments with people in Bristol. For the most part, however, this cultural association with food is a positive one, unifying groups of people who are proud of the produce of their home.
One such foodstuff that is inseparable from the place of its origin is haggis. This puddin’ consisting of offal, oats and spices holds a legendary status popular culture. I remember being a child and having awareness of this supposedly disgusting concoction of unpleasantness that hails from north of the border. It was not until later life when playing some gigs in Edinburgh that I actually tried it for the first time; I also tried deep fried cheeseburger and pizza for the first time, I passed on deep fried skittles. My eyes were well and truly opened to what a fantastic meal haggis, neeps and tatties could be.
With my mind opened and a new-found respect for the Scottish food of legend, I had yet to partake in the celebration of Burns Night; mainly due to not being Scottish, not being a fan of poetry and it occurring in late January when I am generally skint. I have also had a lifelong aversion to Scotch, something that I have been challenging this past year or so with some success. This was remedied this year when I joined others across Brighton and beyond in feasting to the great Scottish bard Robbie Burns.
Now I am not going to bang on about the lyrical mastery of Robbie Burns as I know very little on the subject. All I know is that on every January 25th many a haggis is consumed and washed down with a dram or two of scotch, and that is something I can get behind. Our meal would be taking place at The Jetty restaurant, situated in the new Harbour hotel on Brighton’s seafront.
The Burns night set menu offered a taste of Scotland with Cullen skint to start, followed by the famed haggis, sirloin of beef and finally Crannachan (a dessert with oat cakes, they had to be involved somewhere) to finish. Each dish came with a matched Glenmorangie whisky to toast the evening, which made listening to the bagpipes a little more bearable. The event would probably have fallen short in bringing a tear of patriotic pride to the eye of a passionate Scot, but it made for a decent night out for tremendously unpatriotic Englishman like me.
In these times of misappropriated patriotism and divisive political rhetoric it is good to be reminded of the positive aspects of national and cultural identity; especially when food and drink is involved.