Alright, I already wrote an article in an attempt to demystify the so-called ickiness of black pudding. And it wasn't really that bad of a breakfast side, right? Well, haggis is an entirely different animal. Literally. In fact it even has an infinitely worse reputation than our not-so-sweet pudding friend. So in this edition of investigating U.K. dishes with myself, former expat in London, now back in the motherland, I yearn to discover an undying question: what is haggis? Meaning, what is in the national dish of Scotland, why everyone is so grossed out by it, and why everyone deterred me from trying it while visiting Edinburgh? But I inevitably did anyway, because, well, when in Scotland! 

So, can someone please explain to me what on Earth is haggis?

Like black pudding, haggis is a sausage. Brace yourself for its contents: sheep's stomach stuffed with diced sheep's liver, lungs, and heart, oatmeal, onion, suet (fat), and seasoning. Wow, now that I know the exact ingredients of my adventurous food tasting in Scotland, I'm pretty amazed I didn't get food poisoning from all that, and ended up contracting it from a stray German sausage instead.

Traditionally, this offal (aka the inner organs of animals being used as food) is cooked within the sheep's stomach, but nowadays it is often sold and cooked in synthetic sausage casing. There are also vegetarian versions of haggis, which my professor recommended beforehand, made out of mushrooms or beans. Haggis is generally served with neeps 'n' tatties, equated to mashed yellow turnip/swede and potatoes. Are you uncomfortable? I am.

Yes, but tell me why it's so popular in Scotland and not here in the US of A.

Haggis is actually illegal in the US, and has been since 1971. I guess the FDA has a thing about American citizens eating the lungs of an animal. But really there is a ban that hasn't been lifted for over 40 years. Originally, like black pudding, haggis was meant to feed a group while making sure no meat went to waste.

Haggis's popularity blossomed come 1787, when Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote "Address to a Haggis." Basically, he penned an ode to just how much he loved the "great chieftain o' the puddin' race." And now every year on Burns' birthday, Jan. 25, a special "Burns Night" is celebrated to honor the Scottish national hero. The "Burns Suppers" consist of ceilidh dancing, poetry, whisky, and, of course, haggis galore. 

Ok, you're obviously nuts, but how would you even go about eating the "great chieftain o' the puddin' race?"

cheese, bacon
Tara Bitran

I was wondering the same thing before my sojourn to Scotland. So, I asked my friend who had studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh. And since she believed I might not be able to stomach haggis (ha! pun intended) in its purest form, she recommended I get the haggis burger at Holyrood 9A. So, I went with my friends to try the famous haggis burger. And my waitress was cool enough to deal with my very Sally-esque order, and I happily tried my hand at the Scottish national treasure. If you're curious to see my reaction, here's a video from the fateful dining experience.

See? Like black pudding, I didn't find it to taste so bad at all! While I might not order it again unless I were in Scotland, I was still so happy to have tried something native to a place I'd never been before. That's all part of exploring the world! And if you're ever in Edinburgh and want to try the haggis for yourself, definitely go for the haggis burger at Holyrood 9A.