HAGGIS — you either love it or you hate it.
But as each miserable month of January comes and goes, it’s increasingly obvious that you can’t escape it.
Yes, Burns Night is upon us and, falling on a Friday this year, it’s bound to mean a few more glasses than usual raised in the Ayrshire poet’s honour.
Whether you’re a fan of his writing, or just impressed by his long list of lovers, celebrating the nation’s favourite bard has become the norm.
You may not have worn tartan last St Andrew’s Day, but woe betide anyone who stands between you and the neeps (or swede, should we have any English readers) during this week’s big shop.
Those of you who caught STV’s In Search of Robert Burns may have noticed the esteem held for the ploughman’s poet, as presenter David Hayman marvelled at sitting in the very chair Robert Burns might have used.
Four years of studying Scottish literature taught me this: students hate Burns, but everyone else loves him.
It might be the fault of modernist poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who used him as a by-word for everything wrong with Scotland – and it’s perhaps why I eschewed a life of academia, because I’ve always maintained an affection for the bard.
Yes, Burns does have his share of demented devotees – but when you put aside the legends and the macho drinking clubs, the faux tartanry and kailyard sentiments attributed to him, there remains an interesting figure worthy of celebration.
Strip away outward images of rolling hills, ghouls and goblins and timorous beasties and you’ll find forward-thinking ideas on the rule of the Scottish kirk, class inequalities, gender roles, sexuality and Scottish cultural identity.
Anyway, who in their right minds would pass up the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry during this last long leg of winter? Certainly not the bard himself.
And so, to address that haggis.
There are few foods which gain global mythical status: our great chieftain of the puddin-race is one.
Everyone and their granny has probably, at some time or another, fooled some poor American into thinking that a haggis is a roaming highland beastie – it’s too easy, really.
But no, the ingredients contained within that deep brown casing are altogether more horrifying for some – an unctuous mix of offal, oatmeal and spices.
Still, if you can eat a sausage, you can eat haggis.
I’ll be serving mine with the traditional neeps and tatties, as well as a posh whisky cream (any excuse for a wee dram, eh?)
I may bypass the traditional piping in (don’t think the neighbours would appreciate it), and my memory of the Selkirk Grace doesn’t extend far beyond “Some hae meat...”
But I’ll happily raise a glass to Robert Burns: a progressive, liberal hero for Scots the world over to cling to, and for the rest of the globe to admire – although, they would be advised not to call him Rabbie in my vicinity.