I’d never been to a Burns Supper before, though of course I knew about them.
Burns Suppers, in my mind, were loud, fun and full of Scottish people gathered together on Robert Burns’ birthday to celebrate his poetry and life. The main ritualistic novelty would be the serving of the haggis, the meat pudding pulled from the pot fresh,hot, dripping with juices, waiting to be punctured with a ready fork, brought to the head of the table on a huge silver platter at full arms’ length, steaming away as if it were a battleship – in my mind, maybe even the type of battleship called a ‘dreadnought”.
Haggis has always seemed scary to me, though I’m an adventurous eater. I have a block, actually, about the word “haggis”. Each time I try to remember the word I have to look it up. It escapes my memory, and all I can think about is the image of this large grey-brown tuberous shape, steaming furiously away.
The recently Burns Dinner (not Supper, Dinner) I attended was planned as a “new” form of Burns Supper, more easily digested, perhaps, by what one thinks of as “generalist” eaters (which is what most people are, no matter what they claim). Hosted by The Glenlivet whiskey, the idea was to reinvent the traditional Scottish foods to suit modern tastes. The main course of business, of course, was the whiskey tasting that accompanied the dinner as well as the dessert created and prepared at the end of the dinner by chef Christina Tosi of Milkbar/Momofuku fame.
Peter Karras, The Glenlivet Master of Scotch, gave tasting notes on the progression of four whiskeys at dinner. I’d already introduced myself to Peter at the bar before dinner simply because his jacket was the most magnificent color of dark burgundy (and after my first few sips of the whiskey cocktail they’d given us I absolutely had to comment on it). His sartorial taste was matched by his knowledgable and humorous instruction on the whiskeys.
No poetry was read at dinner except a hopeful sing along of Auld Lang Syne (the full version, with all the difficult pronunciations) at the end of dinner, but Burns’ poems were posted along the walls on elegant sconces, lit by flickering candles.
Care to join me?
“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it's time to drink.” – Haruki Murakami
“Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.” – W. Somerset Maugham