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
A Devoted Classicist
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!