BLESSING THE HAGGIS
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.
THE BROCHA FOR HAGGIS
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".
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?