January 25 has come and gone. And America has suffered through another sad chapter in the history of government suppression of the natural order of things. This article is about that continuing tragedy.
January 25, as we all know, is the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, celebrated by Scots throughout the known world. The salute to Burns has as its universal centerpiece the presentation of haggis, “the great chieftain o’ the pudding race,” as immortalized by Burns in his ode to the Scottish dish. Accompanied by a wee dram, or two, solemnity is mixed with merriment. All is right with the world of universal Scots. But not in the United States, for in this great country of ours, to our deep shame, we have thought irrationally to protect the tough Scots from one of the benefits of their heritage, true haggis.
Haggis is a peasant’s dish, with as one of its essential ingredients the sheep’s pluck, being the lights, liver, and heart, all chopped up and mixed with onion, suet, and oatmeal. The sheep’s lights are its lungs. And, aye, there’s the rub, for the United States Department of Agriculture bans the use of lungs for human consumption: “Livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food.” 9 CFR Ch. III Section 310.16. (This article had to be about the law, somehow.) The rationale for labeling lungs as awful offal is lost to time, although it is believed that it has something to do with an inchoate fear that liquids found in even the most carefully cleaned and boiled lungs might somehow harm even the heartiest and healthiest of eaters.
Join me in urging the USDA to remove this curse from this pluckiest of ingredients and bring haggis as it was meant to be to the eager mouths of those of Scottish heritage, and to all others who, for one day a year at least, seek the warmth of collegiality in the noblest of dishes. I know of no reason to continue this heartless regulation (even though it is lawful to use the sheep heart in haggis.) No reports have reached our ears from Scotland or its neighbors about men, women, or children keeling over in agony from eating true haggis. Who knows, it is perhaps the haggis that has imbued Scots with the qualities of mind, body, and soul that allowed them to bring the Enlightenment to the world and helped launch the Industrial Revolution: Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan, James Watt, Adam Smith. Or as Arthur Herman titled his book: “How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It.” Maybe the non-Scottish portion of the U.S. could benefit from eating haggis.
January commemorated, and definitely not celebrated, the onset of Prohibition. (Another reference to the law, this time the Constitution.) Six years later, upon the repeal of Prohibition, Burns Night regained its essential beverage, Scotch Whisky. But we are only halfway there. Let us join together in another great crusade and end the terrible scourge of a modern-day Prohibition, and thereby allow the legal production of true haggis.