We CRASHED a Burns Supper!
What is a Burns Supper and how did we come to “crash one?”
Our motto lately has been “Don’t think. DO” so when a friend of mine living in London says to me “would you and Andy like to come to the Burns Supper Friday evening at the club? It’s black tie, all-inclusive for X amount.” My frugal self instantly wanted to say “heck no I don’t want to spend that kind of money.” However, I’ve never been to a black tie event nor have I seen Andy in a tux. So without overthinking I agree. I also agreed with the condition that if anyone asked, Andy and I were “reciprocal club members.” When we said live simply- we didn’t also mean cheaply. Make Memories, not clutter. This will no doubt be a memorable event for us. If we spend money, it’s not on tangible things but experiences.
Got a sitter. Got a tux. Got a gown….
The night before I thought, hmm ok all set for this dinner but what does she mean by “Burns Supper?” A few Internet searches and you tube videos later, I am frantically texting Amber with excitement for inviting me to this. To add intrigue to the mix, we’re informed no pictures could be taken. BURNS SUPPER IS A HUGE SCOTTISH TRADITION. Not only do Scots do it, but lots of people living in the United Kingdom. It’s to commemorate the birthday of Scottish Poet, Robert Burns.
I’ll paint the evening to the best of my ability, but I just can’t put into words this experience. Here’s a try…
Andy and I missed the champagne reception. We work full time and have two toddlers. It’s always hard getting myself ready with kids clawing at my pant legs, jumping off the toilet, playing with the toilet brush (disgustingly fascinating to them) or “painting the walls” with Mummy’s make up brushes…. So when trying to REALLY get ready in a gown and some on the spot up-do the pressure is on! That required stopping every 5 min to get milk, a cheese stick, relieve the constant “up mummy, UP” So yea.... We walked into the club right at the start of the dinner.
Andy and I were the youngest people at the dinner by 20-30 years. A sea of older men dressed in mostly kilts and a tux with plaid kilt like pants. The ladies were almost all in black with beautiful pearls and necklaces. This crowd was CLEARLY REFINED and in walk the hill jack Hurley’s, a touch late to dinner and no doubt the crowd assumed“those must be Uncle Neds Kids??”
The dinner tables had more silverware and glasses than the fanciest of table sittings I’ve ever seen and a nice touch was the tiny bottle of scotch whiskey just at the top for the 3 varying size butters knives.
We sit just as the bag piper begins parading around the room in a formal fashion as the crowd starts to clap.
In comes the chef with the shiny silver platter… up on it lies the… drumroll please….. THE HAGGIS.
I’ll get to what that is in a moment…
Thus begins, the addressing of the Haggis. The haggis is placed carefully on linen lined table and a man stands between the bag piper and the chef. The man proceeds to speak very expressively - arms flailing, making various hand and body gestures, varying in his intonation…. At points the crowd would laugh. Andy and I hadn’t a CLUE what the man was saying. He was speaking English we knew, but it was SO Scottish we needed a translator. So we laughed awkwardly when the crowd did. At one point, he pulls out a small sword from its sleeve and proceeds to stab the Haggis multiple times while shouting something Scottish. We then said a traditional Scottish prayer.
So what exactly IS haggis? Haggis is the traditional meal of a Burns Supper and is served with bashed neeps. Most would say the ugly word resembling “hag” is fitting to the dish. I’d object! While it looks absolutely disgusting, it’s surprisingly quite tasty. Anyone who knows me however, knows my obsession with beef jerky, slim jims and what the Amish label “miscellaneous deli meat” sticks. So I might not be the best critic. Haggis is minched (ground) sheep's heart, liver and lungs, with rolled oats, herbs and spices, encased in the sheeps stomach and slow boiled. YUM Right? Andy and I describe it as fancy meatloaf and or Goetta for those Cincinnatians. Bashed neeps resembled mashed sweet potatoes but tasted quite different. I come to find out, it’s what we Americans call a Rutabaga.
We sat next to Dr. Ian Galbrath and his wife Valerie. DELIGHTFUL, warm, friendly people. I am so happy to have sat next to them although slightly embarrassed because they NO DOUBT knew we were full of sh*t. I’m chatting with Ian to my right and I hear Valerie ask Andy if we are members or guests. He does what he’s told and says we are “reciprocal members” and Valerie proceeds to probe although not in an interrogation sort of way. Somehow Andy tells her it was passed down to him from his father?? IS that even a THING?? Not to mention, they clearly knew we had never had haggis before. What members of a Scottish club had never had Haggis before? Even though I’m sure they knew we were not Uncle Ned’s Kids, they were so warm and accepting. They showed us how to pour the scotch whiskey over our Haggis and mush it into the meat to get the most flavour. They also told us all about their life living next to Arundel castle, their vacation homes across Spain, their vacations in Turkey and Sicily… Oddly enough Ian drove through Cincinnati and saw Galbrath (his last name is Galbrath) road. He did a lot of IT work in the states… SMALL WORLD.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the courses of the top notch meal. I’ll get to the after dinner part. We were shuffled through different rooms after dinner to clear out the dining room for the entertainment that was to come. Yet again, Andy and I find ourselves in an awkward situation at the club bar. We got 2 glasses of wine and the bartender asked us for our member number. We awkwardly said we were guests and we’d be back later. We of course, told our friend who was working and she took care of it. It was fun to pretend we didn't know her!
We had fancy hors d’oeuvres in a library type room gilded with ornate gold intricate ceilings before we were moved back upstairs for the after dinner entertainment.
You can see the program here:
The whole time we were just in awe that we were there to witness such a well-planned, joyful Scottish tradition that truly respected a man that helped shape their culture. There of course was reciting of Burn’s poetry, toast to the Lassies, the reply of the lassies, lots of bag pipes and singing.
We’ve got a video we started when we got home. Please bear in mind, that the servers stood within an arms distance of us all evening making sure our wine glass never got below a certain imaginary line. Not to mention the Scotch and Port wine we had as well. Please watch until the end as I develop hiccups and claim that Andy is disgusted by me and I storm off. 😊 “THE PANTS!!!!!!!!!!!”
If you ever get invited to a Burns Supper please GO! Or if you’re the dinner throwing type, please host a Burns Supper!