Don’t, Do Try Haggis – Scotland, Europe

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"Will ya try Haggis, Neeps and Taties, Jim?" is the question my Scottish friend Allan asked me in a small pub in the north of Scotland by the beautiful Loch Lomond. We had come to this area on a day trip from Glasgow, where we would be spending a year while I worked as as exchange teacher. Allan and Sadie were the parents of our exchange partner. We were planning to stay and go to a Celitdh (pronounced Kaylee) that evening so we had stopped at this picturesque Scottish pub for dinner.

"Haggis?", I said with some alarm, "I don't think I want to try it."

"Oh aye, Jim, you must try this typical fare of Scotland, I think you might like it."

Allen and Sadie finally talked my wife and I into ordering the Haggis, Neeps (mashed turnips) and Taties (mashed potatoes) which we were prepared to wash down with a pint of "heavy", the on tap ale of this pub. The dinner came and though I was dreading that first taste, I found it absolutely delicious. I had never heard a good word about haggis so I was totally unprepared for how much I would like it. The pint of ale was the perfect drink for this meal; we felt like true Scots at that moment. Later as we enjoyed the music and comedy of the celidth, I promised myself that I would order haggis many times during our year's stay in this beautiful country.

A week or so later, my wife and I were on a trip up to the Isles of Mull and Iona, staying overnight in the picturesque village of Tobermory. We found Haggis on the menu. My wife refused to order it but I, with great delight, decided to get haggis on a baked potato. Big mistake, the haggis was not edible. I literally gagged on it. I was extremely upset and disappointed; I decided that maybe haggis was not the special treat I thought it was.

Tobermory, Scotland on the Isle of Mull
Tobermory, Scotland, on the Isle of Mull

A week of two after the "killer haggis" incident, Allen and Sadie invited us over for "tea". Allan picked us up and drove us across the city to their flat. As we sat in the parlor and visited, Sadie brought in the tea and biscuits. Thinking we wouldn't have anything else, Deanna and I ate more of the biscuits (their term for cookies) than we would normally. While we talked I relayed my story about the killer haggis I had eaten in Tobermory, and how awful it was.

Sadie invited us to come into the dining room for "tea" asking Allen if the dog had had his tea yet. The dog drinks tea? we thought. It was, it turned out, the Scottish term for supper. Sadie turned to me and said, "I'm not sure Jim is going to like the tea I have prepared because we're havin' haggis." Oh oh, I thought, now I have put my foot in it! But, good news. It seems individual butchers make haggis by their own special recipes; Sadie's butcher was an excellent maker of haggis. I discovered I don't like kidney. Some butchers put a lot of kidney in their haggis. I no longer have to worry about "killer haggis".

When I go to a pub or restaurant and I see that they serve haggis, I request a small sample first and make sure it is the kind I like. I have never been disappointed again. Try haggis, it really is delicious as long as you test it first.

Check out the author's guide to Cheap Travel in Europe.

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