1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published January 1947

Cheers for the haggis. January 25th is Bobby Burns' birthday and again the Scottish clans will feast in the poet's honor on “Burns' night.” Again the haggis, wreathed in steam, ensconced on a great platter, accompanied by a bottle of matured Scotch will be carried aloft to the swirl of the bag pipes, carried into dining rooms of the nation where loyal Scotch clans gather in honor of the poet.

Again the ancient toast to the “great chieftain of the pudding race.” A blessing in the words of Robert Burns, a grace first given extemporaneously at a dinner when haggis was the pièce de résistance. The ode to the haggis is long, it is fervent. These six lines are those frequently recited at Bobby Burns celebrations.

“Fair fa' your honest sonsie face Great chieftain o' the puddin' race! Aboon them a' ye tok your place Painch, tripe or thairm Weel are ye wordy o' a grace As lang's my airm.”

The pudding bag is slit from end to end with a dirk. “And then oh what a glorious sight warm reekin', rich!” No dainty sweet but a lusty tidbit made of the “paunch and pluck” of the sheep, as the stomach, lungs, heart and liver are called. The paunch is cleaned and the heart and liver (not always the lungs) are chopped or hacked. Haggis came from the old dialect word hag meaning to chop. And to this is added chopped onion and stone ground oatmeal toasted and browned. There is chopped suet to keep the pudding light, salt and pepper for seasoning, and rich broth for the moistening. The whole is stuffed into the cleaned paunch and the opening lightly sewed. Now gently to boil four to five hours. The bag must be pricked from time to time to allow the oatmeal to swell.

Haggis is never the main dish, but a wee portion is placed on the plate along with the meat course. But before a fork is lifted a stiff shot of good Scotch whiskey neat, “To Bobby Burns!”

Looking for a haggis? One perfectly made? Order from the Drew Brothers store at 6815 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn. Here the preparation of Scotch meats and pastries is a year-around business. Only haggis is extra curriculum. The Drews prepare food Scotch as the burr of a Highland tongue, enticing as mist over bonnie braes knee-deep in heather.

Tawny mutton pies come from their ovens, some 300 daily filled to the brim with a savoury mixture of finely ground mutton, salt and pepper seasoned. These are meat hearties to enjoy with coffee or to use as a main meat dish for supper.

The Lorn sausages, 55 cents a pound, are of two kinds, the sliced and the link. No pork in the Lorns, these are of beef shin and the round and trimmings from steaks. Suet is added and a special blending of spices.

The shortbread, one of the shop's top sellers, isn't quite up to its prewar standard. Today the bread is only part butter and tastes more like a Lorna Doone than an out and out shortbread. It sells in fingers, in squares, rounds and quarter-rounds. The breads are made in wooden molds which came from Cruikshank's in Edinburgh, as did the molds used for the fern cakes and the apple tarts. Freshly baked oat cakes are a fine thing, buttered to eat with snappy cheese, the mealy savour of the imported Scotch oats so round in the mouth against the sharp, smooth feel of the cheese.

Scones of three kinds, the plain or cream scone, a soda scone, and it speaks right up with its soda too, and Sultana scones, these raisin-speckled. These to split and crisp to a deep brown, then to cover thick with butter, and delicious with homemade black currant jam.

Other biscuits on hand are the Abernathy, the Banbury, the Perkins. This last, by the way, is the hottest spiced sweet we ever put tongue to. What it is we don't know, but it's a biscuit like a hot water gingerbread, baked hard as a rock and hot as unmentionable places.

If you live in Manhattan, and Brooklyn seems a far journey, Rahmeyer's store, 1022 Third Avenue, has a limited selection of these Scottish items. Here are mutton pies, individual size, 10 cents apiece. Here are steak and kidney pies to please the Scotch as well as the English, but to be ordered, please, one day ahead. The smallest size, serving five, is priced $2.75, with a 50 cent deposit to be paid on the pie tin. The pie is made with steak, cut in largish pieces, combined in a deep dish with quarters of kidney and a rich beef gravy, the top a regal crown of puff paste. This steak and kidney pie is more steak than kidney, the meat is tender, the gravy delicious. The excellence of the gravy, you know, is the final test of any meat concoction in crust.

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