At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This post is offal.

In August of 2001 someone on the Suriname mailing list asked about Haggis. In connection with kwakoe (a summer festival for Surinamers living in P'tata), celebrated every year in the Bijlmer.

[Explanatory notes: Surinamers are Dutch Guyanese, mostly of African or Creole ancestry but also including every ethnic and cultural group under the sun in not insignificant proportion. Kwakoe (Kwaku) means Wednesday in Kromanti, which is a Voodoo (Winti) ritual language derived from Ghanaian languages spoken by the Africans brought to Suriname (Dutch Guiana), and is the name for a man born on that day of the week. It is also the name of the monument in Paramaribo to the abolition of slavery on Wednesday July first, 1863. Consequently the statue, of a man breaking free of his chains, has been identified as personifying the archetype of the African Surinamer, a free man at last, finally in charge of his own life. It was natural that the name would be adopted for a two month long festival (weekends in July through August) celebrating Surinamese heritage (and food) in what is probably the largest Surinamese city in the world, namely the Bijlmer Meer Polder housing estates in South-East Amsterdam. P'tata (potato) is the affectionate nickname that the Surinamers gave to the Netherlands.]

In response to that query I mentioned that Haggis is quite inedible unless one is Scottish or insane, and further explained that it is made by taking the plucks (heart, lungs, liver - so named because they can be extracted from the animal corpse by grasping and 'plucking') and boiling the crap out of them for several hours before chopping them fine, combining them with oatmeal - chopped onion - spices, stuffing this unholy mixture into a cleaned lamb stomach, and steaming the frightful concoction several more hours. A vegetarian version can be made with tofu (substitute cheesecloth for lamb stomach), which will be marginally more edible.

Recently E-kvetcher, a fellow blogger and friend of this blog, asked tongue-in-cheekily what the appropriate brocha for haggis would be.

I am in the unfortunate position of having given much thought to haggis, and consequently can authoritatively answer that question.


Let us assume that you have been served a portion of haggis. The whiskey was nice, the bagpipe music far less so, and your hosts have now dumped an evil substance with the texture of grainy spackle and no identifiable food related characteristics on your plate. You are of two minds as to whether to eat any part of it. You stare at it with considerable surprise and distrust.
And yet you grasp your fork anticipatorily; you will...... fork it.

In this case, the correct practice (in Scotland) is to recite: "Boruch Ata Adonoi Eloheinu, melech ha olam, oseh ma'aseh vereishis".


Better, though, to politely demure, and say "Boruch ata Adonoi Eloheinu, melech ha olam, shegemalani kol tov".

Sotto voce.

I wish to stress that last part. These folks actually EAT this stuff, and have a well-deserved reputation for being dour and bloody maniacs. Remember that bad Mel Gibson movie? You do not want them to start pulling out the blue face paint, do you? These are the same vicious people who will deep-fry a Snickers bar without a second thought. Be carefull.

[Note that if one is in Scotland, teatime is wonderful, but for dinner better go to a foreign (English) restaurant and stick with safe and reliable choices such as spotted dick and boiled baby. These are not savoury as haggis is alleged to be. But safety first.]


Final word on Kwakoe: If you are in Amsterdam during July and August, definitely consider attending the festival. Even if the prospect of bloodpudding, fladder, offal, screamingly hot chilies, and bacalhao in peanut-curry doesn't excite you, there are many other fine things to eat (Surinamese cuisine is absolutely terrific, and, along with Indonesian cuisine represents the very best that Dutch food has ever achieved). Buy yourself a tall bottle of Parbo beer or an ice cold glass of almond syrup and soda water, find a place to park yourself, and listen to some great party music. Swingi, man!


Note: the offal discussion happened over at Steg's place:
E-kvetcher's blog is here:
Need I mention that I read their blogs regularly?

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  • At 10:11 PM, Blogger e-kvetcher said…

    >These are the same vicious people who will deep-fry a Snickers bar without a second thought.

    I think residents of the great state just to the north of me do the same.

    Last I checked those cheeseheads still led the nation in morbid obesity and chronic alcoholism!

  • At 1:52 PM, Blogger mevaseretzion said…

    How about, meshaneh habriyot (perhaps applying more to the host who eats haggis) ?


  • At 2:45 PM, Blogger Lemuel said…

    In your post about durian a while ago you brought me to Indonesia. Now you take me from South America (Suriname) to Holland (Bijlmermeer/Amsterdam). I lived both in South America and in Holland, know Surinam people, visited Kwaku 2 or 3 times, but never heard of haggis. By saying a braga you suppose it is kasher? Baruch Hashem I don't eat outdoors. I cannot believe I would swallow it.

    About Suriname: do you know that it has the ruins of the oldest synagog of the Americas? After being exiled from Spain Jews also settled in South America, so also in Suriname. These Sephardim did not mix with the Ashkenazim who came from Holland. In the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo, the synagog stands beside a mosque. On the floor in the synagog there is white sand, symbolizing the dessert. (The synagog in Curacao has the same.) You are right about the population. A mix of everything. In one family you have Muslems, Christians and Jews living peaceful together.

    The grandfather of my wife came from Scotland. I'm going to ask the family if they know about haggis. Still cannot beleive there exists something like that.

  • At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Mr. BOTH,

    There has been a terrible misconception among Orthodox Jews. They understand the verse "ve hagisa bo yomam va laila", And thou shalt delve in in by day and by night, to refer to the Torah. And therefore, they study Torah all day, every day. But in fact, it refers to the Sexual Fantasies of the Nazis. It is davka the Sexual Fantasies of the Nazis that one is supposed to study all day.

    I expect a post from you on this topic, forthwith.


    Lawrence Cuttleworth

  • At 2:45 AM, Anonymous graham said…

    I havent' eaten haggis for ages - but it does taste good (I'm also entitled to wear the Robertson tartan - though I was only six last time I wore a kilt)

    Apparently haggis cannot legally be sold in the United States because the FDA views products made with lung tissue as unfit for human consumption. So you Yankees will just have to make your own or go to Scotland

    I have recently eaten starry-gazy pie a dish from Cornwall, - it is a fish pie with whole fish heads poking through the crust

    Really scares the wife that one - she won't touch it


  • At 2:58 AM, Blogger Lemuel said…

    I support Anonymous's question. Studying Thorah keeps me busy every day. I am thankful that I am able to do so. In the sidur there is a minimun level of the daily study, in the morning section, right after Adom Olam: The blessing of the priests, followed by 2 sentences from the Mishnah and a few sentences from the Gemarah.

    I don't understand the reference to the Nazis, Anonymous. Orthodoxy exists thousands of years. Nazism is of the last century. Or do you include eras as crusades, Roman occupation and the like under Nazism? I just wonder.

  • At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lemuel, do you doubt that the Torah prophetically knew what was going to happen in the future? This mitzvah was a mitzvah for the future, after the writings of the Nazis, including their sexual fantasies, would be published.

  • At 7:22 AM, Blogger Lemuel said…

    No, Anonymous, I don't doubt Torah. Not a second. Torah is "emet".
    ...If we do this, that will happen. If we don't do this, that will happen...
    I, too, think that we must study Torah every day. I myself am not able to study all day. I must honestly say that I must study this mitzvah. I'll discuss it in the congregation, and am looking forward to a post from the Blogmaster.


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