Haggis: Don’t ask, don’t tell

No matter how you dice it, people either love or hate haggis. At least that was the response I got from my Facebook friends when I mentioned trying the Scottish staple. One of my favorite responses likened it to licking a wet dog.

I honestly hadn’t given haggis a thought until our concierge told us about a place that made some of Scotland’s best. “So what is it?” I asked. He advised that it’s best not to think about it; just try it.

Hmmm … sounded sketchy to me. So I did what all inquisitive, in-the-know people do these days. I googled it.

“A savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours,” according to Wikipedia.

The concierge was right. Too much information.

I decided to break myself into the Scottish culinary lifestyle with another popular dish, black pudding. Sounds innocent enough. Who doesn’t like pudding?

One thing is sure. It’s black. However, pudding it is not. I let my mind take over and only finished half of the careful portion I ladled onto my plate the first morning of our Scotland visit.

Spoiler alert: Black pudding, also known as blood sausage, typically is made from pork blood and oatmeal.

When you put too much thought into it, it’s a little freaky to eat. But something happened after those first few hesitant bites. I actually craved it the next morning and made it a regular part of every breakfast over the next six days during our trip.

Egg over black pudding at Loch Ness Lodge

It's hard to beat a fried egg over black pudding for breakfast.

While it consists of oatmeal, I wouldn’t call it the breakfast of champions. In fact, I decided to blame my trip weight gain on it.

Black pudding was my gateway food to haggis. What better place to try Scotland’s national dish than in a pub called WHISKI. That’s just what I needed to work up the courage to try it. Instead, I ordered a refreshing glass of my favorite beer of the trip, Innis & Gunn. That was a good start.

WHISKI pub in Edinburgh

WHISKI Bar and Restaurant

When the waiter recommended his appetizer version of haggis, I bit my lip and placed my order. Why overcommit with a dinner portion?

And the verdict?

I can honestly say I liked it. The minced texture was consistent and firm. It was served over a bed of “neeps and tatties,” a mashed mix of turnips and potatoes. What I loved was the surprising taste of nutmeg. Well played.

Haggis at WHISKI in Edinburgh

An appetizer portion is a good way to first try haggis.

To round out my haggis experience, I ordered it one more time during our trip. Everyone needs a comparison to truly say they’ve given haggis a chance. And I was starting to crave it a few days later, although the compulsion was driven more by curiosity and nostalgia. I knew there was no way I’d order a U.S.-version of it. I’d only trust the experts with an order of haggis.

Not wanting too much of a good thing, I went again for the appetizer portion. This time, I tried it deep fried in a spring roll. While not quite as good as the first try, it was a worthy order.

My twenty-year-old self never would have tried black pudding or haggis. Do I credit the wisdom that comes with age? More refined tastes? Increased openness to trying new things? Courage?

Let’s call it wisdom. Who knows which dish it will lead me to on next trip.

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