Sunday, January 27, 2008

Our Own Burns Night Supper

Entry for 25 January 2008:

Last year we attended the University’s version of a Burns Night celebration, a big fancy affair in Barony Hall, with all the bells and whistles. This year, Diane and Lorna decided that it would be really good if Mikio could experience a Burns Night Supper before he goes back to Japan in March, so they decided to do their own small version of this Scottish tradition for Beth, Ana (Beth's daughter), Mikio, and me.

This was new departure for all of us, even Lorna, who took on the mistress of ceremonies role and the Speech to the Immortal Memory. She and Diane worked on the plans all week. They assembled the bits and pieces, in running order:
-Leeks/celery etc, for the starter: Cock-a-Leekie soup.
-Haggis (authentic version with sheep's lungs etc., and vegetarian), plus carrots/neeps (turnip) and tatties (mashed potatoes), for the main course.
-A wee bottle of Drambouie, (a liqueur associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie), for the dessert, to go over the sliced oranges, making a dish called Tipsy Orange.
-The piece de resistance, a collection of scottish cheeses: Bruckley, Grimbister, Clava, and two kinds of Scottish island cheddar, an Orkney and a Mull.

That was just the food. There were also the various poems and speeches that had to be collected or written (again in running order):
-Address to the Haggis: Lorna
-Speech to the Immortal Memory (of Robert Burns): Lorna
-Toast to the Lasses: Lorna assigned this to me (the only male native English speaker present in any case).
-Response from the Lasses: Diane got this role.
-Various Burns songs (we selected A Man’s a Man for A’That, Green Grow the Rashes O, and Auld Lang Syne), in Scots, with English translations where possible.

Finally, I made a playlist of appropriate Scottish music, featuring bagpipes and some of my favorite Burns songs (I have the box set of all 300+ Burns songs).

The Burns Supper is full of ritual, like the Parade of the Haggis, and ritual objects, like the metal platter on which the Haggis is paraded, and the dagger (in our case a black-handled kitchen knife) with which to stab the Haggis. These too had to be organized.

In the event, I think it came off quite nicely. There was wine and whiskey, but not in excess, the food worked, a good balance between ritual and convivial conversation was achieved, the speeches were heart-felt and revealing, and a good time was had by all. Lorna carried off the Address to the Haggis and the Speech to the Immortal Memory with great style, invoking the spirit of her childhood and her beloved uncles and citing Burns as a major source of her person-centredness. My toast to the lasses was an autobiographical poem/account of my history of relationship to women and the feminine, interwoven with one of my favorite Burns poems, “Green Grow the Rashes O”. Diane responded to this with tart good humor appropriate to the occasion. We concluded by playing/singing/decoding (into English) Diane and Lorna’s favorite Burns song of equality, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”.

There was a large mess to clean up after our guests left, but it was clear that the evening had been a great success, and one that we would like to try again. Now that we have an idea of the basics, we would like to try it on a somewhat larger scale, for 10 or 12 people.

I am also posting my Toast to Lasses, with Burns interpolations. Slainte!

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