Wednesday night before Christmas, Drewbacca, Q.T. and I decided to finally eat the cans of haggis that’ve been in my cupboard for the past year. The haggis was given as a gift, kept neglected and half-remembered until that night. We had been putting it off. Always between workout programs, consuming 1500 calories and 80 grams of fat in one sitting had seemed egregiously backward to our goals. But for the third time we were starting over, getting ready to train our balls off. We were waiting for after Christmas to start exercising again, so until then, anything was fair game.
We checked the expiration printed on the cans. Just a little past the store date, but not so much that we weren’t going to at least sample our present. Now I’m no expert when it comes to haggis, but I’ve had more of my share than your average white boy. Although it came out of a can and looked like wet dog food, the haggis really tasted pretty good. Once it warmed up in the pan, it smoothed out, softened up, and started smelling delicious.
For those of you who don’t know what haggis tastes like, the best comparison I think I could give it would be something akin to livermush. And for those of you who don’t know what livermush tastes like, haggis tastes sorta kinda like soft sausage. At first description of its components, haggis doesn’t sound at all appetizing. Made from sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs, it’s cooked with onion, oatmeal, and spices. Haggis is sometimes prepared in the casing of a sheep’s stomach, though this is not to be eaten and is less common these days. To your average American, this all sounds pretty unwholesome, but I think most would be surprised at how tender and tasty haggis can be. For one thing it doesn’t look like what you’d expect. It’s not very sinewy, bloody, or fleshy. Instead, it looks more like an unintimidating portion of cooked ground beef. As someone who really enjoys the savory flavor of mutton, I really appreciate this hearty dish.
Traditionally, haggis is eaten with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). As part of the gift, we were given cans of diced rutabagas and potatoes. Rutabagas are the closest thing to Scottish turnips, so I’m told. We were well aware that we could go to the grocery store and get vegetables that hadn’t been hibernating in saline broth for the past year, but the canned goods were part of the pre-packaged experiment and it seemed wrong to exclude them. We drained as much of the salt juice as we could before heating the rutabagas and potatoes in the oven. They came out soft, warm, but still a tad salty. To be honest, I would never eat them on their own but they were a good compliment to the haggis when they were mixed in.
Perhaps what saved the meal from being too salty was the haggis sauce. It was made and sent from Edinburgh, Scotland just for our little meal. It might sound weird, but the best way I can describe it is a steak sauce mingled with redcurrant jam and, of course, just a hint of whiskey. We spread it over the top of our meat and veggies. The sweet bite of the sauce delivered a little slap-and-tickle to our taste buds. I’ve since found it to be a versatile topping. Afterward, I used what was left spread thinly on different sandwiches and have continued to enjoy the potent flavor.
Now, I’ve had better, but I must say the whole main course was pretty damn good considering it had been sitting in the cupboard for months. A bit salty, but pretty damn good. The dessert was a different matter entirely.
Drambuie cake was the final ingredient for this little feast. It too came in a can, and a huge one at that. We cut open the lid and turned it upside down. A sagging mass of whiskey-soaked bread fell from its aluminum casing in the shape of a sand castle turret. We dubbed it ‘dump cake’ before taking our precautionary bites. The nickname only seemed more apt afterward. It tasted like syrup with a drinking problem. One bite and your tongue was drunk while the rest of you was high on sugar. Needless to say, we left the cake leaning frumpily on the plate where it had landed—a soggy monument to disappointment.
Excluding its toe-curling finale, haggis night proved to be a victory. I encourage you, if you ever get the chance, to let down your hair and try a bite. Haggis is even better fresh-made. Make sure you get some beer to wash it down with, for the same reason salted peanuts or pretzels are best with a bitter beverage. The real lesson—one that probably seemed unavoidably obvious to you—is never eat cake straight out of the can. Never forever.