Times change. Haggis no longer has to contain the head, the arse and everything in-between of an animal. Veggie haggis is becoming increasingly popular with both vegetarians and squeamish carnivores. Equally, whisky has come a long way since uisge-beatha was a clear fiery liquid that was matured for days, at best, and not years in a variety of exotic casks. If we're talking about etymology here, then 'meat' originally meant 'food'. In Old English it was 'mete' and Old Irish had 'mat' meaning 'pig' which is possibly the ancestor of today's Gaelic 'muc'. I say all this as it seems as if some - who may or may not see themselves as 'tradition bearers' - turn their nose up at the idea of a vegetarian Burns Nicht. While Burns was a man of his time and enjoyed his animal flesh, innards etc, he was undoubtedly open-minded and content to embrace diversity. Suffice to say that Scotland's various winter festivals can be enjoyed by all regardless of diet. The Mac na Bracha household enjoyed a veggie Burns Nicht that included more than one dram of vegan,distilled barley juice.
To eat: Veggie Haggis - MacSweens is by far the best though other varieties can be bought and unlike meat haggis, it can also be home-made quite easily without the need to blowtorch the skin of an animal, split it's head with an axe and scoop the entrails into a mixing bowl - Hebridean life has been described to me in such detail on more than one occasion btw. Mashed Tatties with olive oil instead of butter. Cubed and caramelised neeps. Most Scots kids can remember being forced to eat neeps at some point in their childhood and may recall that mixing it with the tattie rendered it somewhat palatable. I and others can attest that cubing the offending root and roasting it for nigh on an hour makes it very delicious indeed.
A vegan whisky sauce - rice milk, olive oil, white flour, ground oats, wholegrain mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice and some Laphroaig Quarter Cask - topped off the main course. This was followed by Black Crowdie/ Gruth Dubh - traditional soft cottage cheese rolled in oats and black pepper - some Strathdon Blue and Asda's whisky cheddar accompanied by Shetland Oatcakes. To drink: Innis & Gunn Rum Cask, Crabbies Black, SMWS 25.62 Rosebank 20 yo, Laphroaig Quarter Cask and Whiskybroker Bowmore 14yo. Music: Dougie MacLean - Tribute. A Frightened Rabbit EP - Scottish Winds is surely a song that Burns would've been proud of. And as the inhibitions were chased off into the January night by a sweet and smoky Bowmore, Oi Polloi's Dùisg graced the speakers. Roll on St. Andrew's Day.