A This is the most frequently asked question: why do you hold an annual party in honor of Robert Burns? Well, mainly because I like his poetry, his country, and single malt scotch - this party is the perfect amalgam of all three. Now, know that I'm not calling this a "Burns Supper" - a well-known type of dinner-oriented (and somewhat regimented) party. For the format of a Burns Supper, go here. It's a great idea, and I hope to do it in the "right" way some time, but I simply can't hold an actual sit down dinner for 30+ people. So, it's more like a party with a Burns (and Scottish) theme.
Robert Burns, the Scottish National Poet, was the subject of my senior thesis in, get this, high school (in 1988). I liked the idea of the Burns supper that I decided to have one of my own. But I had to wait, a little bit anyway. My dad, ever the accomodator, gave me a shot of scotch (probably Famous Grouse, my favorite blend, and a favorite amongst the Brits, too) and brought home some haggis. In my university years, I was a bit too poor to do much more than get a bottle or two and some smoked salmon on crackers or something like that. I broke out once I was employed in 1993 - finally! A real party! I have tried to make them better ever since. And I have been honored by the presence of dozens of attendees, some perennial, some only once or twice. I'm always pleased to see that people enjoy the party, because that's the goal.
Q Do I need to bring anything?
A No, nothing at all! I certainly don't turn anything away, but the reason why is mainly because I like to make sure to stick to the Scottish theme: food and drink. I find Scottish beers, I have tons of Scottish recipes, and of course, fine single malts. This ain't just a chips-and-dips party, baby!
Q Can I bring someone with?
A But of course, sweetie! What kind of antisocial ogre do you take me for? All are welcome: parents (mine come sometimes), dates, friends, husbands, wives, whomever. I make a pile of food that never seems to stop coming, and many times I don't even put it all out! The 1999 party may have topped the record, with close to 40 people making at least a brief appearance.
Q Who is that guy who hugs everybody when he's inebriated?
A That's Joe Frechette, and it wouldn't be a Burns party without him!
Q What the &*%$ is Haggis?
A Haggis is a Scottish variant of a common dish served around the world. It mainly consists of sheep offal (the bits normally not seen on supermarket meat counters) like liver, kidneys, heart, blood etc., mixed with oatmeal and boiled in a hollowed-out sheep's stomach. But please! It's not as gross as one might think, really. It's more like a big round sausage. First off, you don't eat the stomach, it just makes a great container for all of the other things. Secondly, the flavor is not all that odd. Ever have blood pudding? Kiska? Both very similar. The only people who wouldn't like haggis are those who don't like lamb in the first place. If you do enjoy lamb (or mutton), you'll like the taste of haggis. Thirdly, I find it so hard to either purchase the ingredients (or just get one already made), that I haven't had one at my party for years now. That's a shame, really, because it is such a central part of any good Burns Night. It is, after all, the "Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!"
For more information on haggis, click here or here. This year's haggis will be made by Ian Morrison of the Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, MD.