This dish of sheep's stomach filled with assorted offal (the internal organs e.g. lungs, heart, liver) and oatmeal is the most (in)famous representative of Scottish Cuisine. Though if drinks count as well, whisky is of course even more famous, and seen in a more positive light.
Anna (an old high school friend) and her 100% Scottish father Hugh, actually do have haggis about once a month. They buy it at a specialty store called Jungle Jim's, but sadly, none was available in time for this "80 meals" dinner.
So now I can discover what the Scots have to offer besides haggis, which I have to admit is all I knew about their kitchen.
When I arrive, the table is all set and a beautiful stuffed fox presides over the table. Normally its place is on the tv. Seeing it makes me wonder aloud if the purpose of foxhunting is to catch the fox and eat it or only to "control the population", because they are seen as chicken robbers. Hugh doesn't really answer the questions by replying: "Foxhunting is actually a typically English occupation and us Scots prefer Englishmen over foxmeat!"
The tone is set for the evening. And I don't have to worry about the justification of a separate Scottish entry...
I hardly believe him when he tells me the starter is called cockaleekie soup. This name seems so strange to my ears, I start thinking Hugh has just made some food, invented Scottish sounding names for it, and hopes to get a good laugh out of me believing all this hogwash.
But both Anna and her sister Lucy adamantly assure me this chicken and leek soup is a real Scottish recipe.
Hardly have we finished the cockaleekie or Hugh heads out to the kitchen and returns with neeps (turnips), stovies (peppered potatoes and onions) and black and white pudding.
The "pudding" consists of fried slices of sausage made with oatmeal and pigs' blood (the black pudding) or pigs' fat (the white pudding). Surprisingly good, I must say. Anna tells me haggis tastes more or less the same...so next time I am offered some, I won't fear it as much as I did before.
We talk about why Hugh left the UK. It turns out the main reason was Maggie Thatcher and her conservative MP Kenneth Clarke, who more or less personally "killed" the project he was working on about government expenditures. So he moved out to the Netherlands, working as a mathematical statistician - as far as I could understand - improving logistics for transportation companies.
After the filling main meal comes more "pudding", confusingly a word used for sausage as well as for all desserts. I ask: "Isn't calling dessert pudding seen as somewhat lower class?" A friend of mine told me this and wanted to see if it was a generalized concept.
"No...I believe that is a middle class hang up," quips Hugh. According to him, extreme class consciousness is also more English than Scottish.
In this case, "pudding" is an absolutely delicious crowdie (see Anna with crowdie at right) made with oatmeal, fresh raspberries, blueberries and a glass of 15 year old rum. The rum is from the WW, a bar about 6 meters down the street and a surrogate living room for Hugh and Anna. They sometimes even take their glasses home with them and bring them back the next day.
We end the meal with a short photosession (it's difficult to catch Hugh with both eyes open and not looking excessively dour) and he lends me his treasured "European cookbook", a well-worn tome from about 40 years back.
I leave with Anna (a student of fiscal law) and her duvet to drop her off at her boyfriend's well organized squat, where she can study in peace.
(The original post about this meal is from May 08, 2006)