Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I ain't doin' it, Robbie!

Last week, Lindaraxa was kind enough to give me the Stylish Blogger Award. I was touched, of course, flattered certainly, and in a private email I thanked this near neighbour, but, actually, I was at a loss as to what to write about myself that is not already known. Twice before I been awarded something similar - the first time I compiled a list of things about me that might be of interest and the second I'd written about books that I was reading. Besides I felt my blog posts are threaded through with aspects of my character and my life - how could this occasional diary of opinion, history and derring-do be anything else?

For a while I've toyed with the idea of writing about a dinner party I'd like to give for fellow bloggers - and today, January 25th - Robert Burns' birthday - gives me the ideal opportunity to give a dinner party and throw the rules of the CBA out of the window with the haggis, as it were. While on the subject of Haggis, the so-called national dish of Scotland, let me say that I ain't doin' it - at least, not in the way it has been presented to me at past Burns Night Suppers. A sheep's belly stuffed with offal, oatmeal and spices, might be explained away as a large sausage, and here I must say I really do like the Haggis, but presenting it , whether followed to the table by a kilted piper or not, in all its steamingly inflated, grey bagginess, to the delicate sensibilities of my American guests does not bear thinking about.

The Celt, as you know, is Scottish, thus this Burns Night Supper is heavily influenced by his tastes but very definitely modified by mine!

The Burns Night Supper in The Blue Remembered Hills

The first course, caramelized fois gras on pain d'epices and Scottish smoked salmon sandwiches, tiny triangular morsels, would accompany cocktails in the living room. Champagne will be on hand, naturally, but my choice would be a Manhattan made with Talisker whisky, that lovely smokey distillation from the Isle of Skye. I'm not sure there's a Scots version of the Negroni, the cocktail likely to be the Celt's choice.

Then to table where the Selkirk Grace would be spoken.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit

Haggis has to be the star of this evening's meal - a meal taken at a table dressed to the nines with linen, silver and crystal - and very difficult it is to make it so given its aforementioned unprepossessing appearance but I'd probably have the Haggis taken out of its bag and baked in a thin hot-water crust, very like a Melton Mowbray pork pie, and served with the obligatory bashed tatties and neeps. Lor' help me, but I must tell you that despite my liking of Haggis, I find the combination with mashed potatoes and mashed rutabaga totally tedious. Nonetheless, its the traditional combination.

What to drink with Haggis? In our house, it probably would be a shiraz but whisky should always be within reach for any toasts that will surely be made -  the Address to the Haggis (that great chieftain o' the puddin' race), and the toasts to the Lassies and the Laddies.

Dessert in our house is always the most discussed part of any dinner party and frequently the only possible option according to the Celt is trifle - a pudding, in the Brit sense of the word, he deems suitable for any meal, any occasion and any dinner guest. There are more traditional Scottish desserts, perhaps, but trifle defeats Cranachan every time. Trifle, not quite the bagetelle the name suggests, is much beloved in all its forms but has over the years distilled into one particular version for which one needs first the prettiest, deepest crystal bowl, in which sugary lady finger cookies, gobbets of apricot jam and amaretti, piled layer upon layer and soaked in sherry and brandy - not for us the delicate sprinkling from a spoon, more the upending of both bottles until the trifle base sings softly to itself - and followed by lightly sweetened cooked apples topped by home-made vanilla custard that itself is covered in deep billows of whipped cream. Drambuie with the dessert is possible, though I would have it brought to the living room with coffee.

As I said last time I was awarded something similar, if you're on my blogroll you can be assured I'd like to see you at my dining table. If you comment frequently, either as a fellow blogger, or as commenator - The Ancient, Home Before Dark, Bruce, et al, or write to me privately as does the Gentleman in Washington, I'd also love to see you at table.

My guest list

The Down East Dilettante
Treasure Hunt
Reggie Darling
A Devoted Classicist
Architectural Tourist

If you are not on this list it simply means you will be at the table next time. If I thought I might have got away with a Burns Night cocktail party then the guest list would have looked much different - thirty-seven bloggers plus commentators. What a time we could have had!


  1. Dear Blue: I accept your marvelous invitation with alacrity and pleasure, and cannot imagine a more delightful meal, hallowed occasion, or convivial cast of characters to share it with. Thank you, Reggie

  2. OK, well next time then. Feelings a bit hurt though. But trifle, that made me drool. Of course we only had it in a highly modified Southern Methodist style growing up. Mom didn't allow THAT kind of spirits.

  3. Architectural Tourist--you are on the list. I don't care for Haggis but still think you are super stylish. ;p

  4. Blue --

    Several years ago, I arranged a by-the-book Burns Night Dinner for assorted younger relations.

    I am still occasionally abused by accounts of Uncle Ancient rising unsteadily, glass in hand, to make the obvious toast.

    (I doubt it will happen again.)

  5. The Down East Dilettante Accepts Mr. Blue's Kind Invitation for Burns Night

    ---and delighted I am to find myself in such lively company. I will have my jacket let out in anticipation of the dessert.

    Indeed you are a very Stylish Blogger

  6. Dear Blue: I am honored to to be invited to your table, and share in the company of such esteemed guests! Thank you! The conversation would be as delectable as the meal would be delicious. With warm regards- Daniel

  7. I had visions of "sugary lady finger cookies, gobbets of apricot jam and amaretti, piled layer upon layer..." Blue's food writing is exceeded only by his travel food writing.

  8. dear barry,
    your description of haggis has me almost declaring myself a vegetarian;)
    I think I will pass on that and have extra cocktails!! then I will quietly sit in the corner, close my eyes and listen to the brilliant banter from your above guests that would most certainly entertain! Oh, and would you ask Daniel to sing for us?!!!


  9. It all sounds delicious (but maybe I'll skip the whisky, sadly). My family is very scottish (lamont clan)and at our 'scottish family reunions' we all wear our kilts (mine sadly is a children's version and no longer fits) but for this virtual feast it fits! One year someone brought Haggis and sadly I wasn't adventurous enough (at the age of 15) to try it. I'm kicking myself now! A very fun and stylish group you have put together, now THAT would be a dinner party to remember!

  10. Barry, than you so much for this invitation. I feel honoured to be among such lively and charming fellow guests. I like your 'disguise' of the haggis to suit American sensibilities :) Here's to Burns!

  11. I will join for the love of a house: kibosh the haggis, add more libations (red wine, please) and YES! to the sheer pleasure of sitting in the corner listening to brilliance being passed back and forth. Would love to see all of your handsome faces in the beauty of candlelight and hear the wonderful laughter. Cheers!

  12. blue, needless to say-what strikes me most about your guest list-is that no, No ladies have been asked-which I find slightly remiss. there must be some reason but I always prefer a better mix and I would delight in the haggis, that is if...

  13. Blue, what a treat it would be to accept your invitation! Not only would it be a delight to finally meet you and the Celt, but there are a few others on the list whose every word I would want to hear also. I do not know if I could bear to miss out on anything. And too, there are some who I do not know, but clearly should. Hopefully this can happen some day. I would enjoy nothing better. Many, many thanks.

  14. Reggie, you're very welcome!

  15. Terry, apologies for the mix-up and thank you!

  16. Yummy Scrumptious, thank you. You have not tried my Haggis.

  17. Ancient, thank you. I told some students about it today and they looked at me as if I was crazy. I sympathize!

  18. Dilettante, I cannot believe that you have to let out your jacket. Surely not! A kilt is the way to go - very forgiving.

  19. for the love of a house, thank you. I almost made myself more of a vegetarian with my description of the Haggis. I'm not a big meat eater at the best of times but I cannot bring myself to try vegetarian Haggis. And, no sitting in the corner - ladies to the fore!

  20. ArchitectDesign, thank you. I'm with you on the whisky as I'm not a lover of it straight. My father in law used to lace his tea with it and for the rest drank it with a drop of water - preferably drawn from the burn.

  21. Emile de Bruijn, thank you. We thoroughly enjoyed your company last night! Until next time.

  22. home before dark, thank you. No lady will be allowed to sit in a corner! As to the handsome faces - I own that candlelight is perhaps the best for someone of my vintage. A Ladies Night is in the offing.

  23. Little Augury, thank you. Ah, but it was a stag night - boys only, I'm afraid. A little bit of harmless clubbiness - harmless but raucous!