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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Guest Blog: Nancy Lee Badger: Dig Into Haggis: An Acquired Taste

While researching facts to add to my romance novels set in Scotland, I learned about a staple food called Haggis. In truth, I have heard and even tasted the American version of this treat. Yes, I use the word treat, because the taste must be acquired. My taste buds have not fallen under its spell, but when it is offered…I dig in.

Haggis is usually made by stuffing a sheep’s stomach with sheep’s pluck, what we know as the animal’s cooked heart, liver, and lungs. Onions, oatmeal, suet, and spices are added, and the mixture is put through a meat grinder. The stuffed sausage-like food is then cooked in an oven. The coarse texture has a distinct taste similar to goose liver pate, such as foie gras, a well-known French delicacy. The Scots eat it like candy.

In my first book in my Highland Games Through Time series, I mention haggis in a less-than positive light. My heroine, Haven MacKay, is upset with a friend and thinks:

     Where had Jake run off to? Was he stuck in the long food lines? Or, had he escaped inside the beer tent?
     I hope he chokes on a mouthful of haggis.

In my second book in the series, My Banished Highlander, my hero from ancient Scotland finds himself at a present-day Highland Games, and he is hungry:

     The aroma of haggis made his stomach rumble and reminded him that his mistress had sent him to procure their noon meal.

I cannot say that my personal experience tasting haggis is the same as one might experience when visiting Scotland. America does not allow the use of lungs, and sometimes casings other than a sheep’s intestine are used. I have spread what Scots call tasty pudding on crackers at Burns Suppers back in New Hampshire. ‘Burns suppers’ are traditionally held in late January to commemorate the birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. As his poem Address to a Haggis, is recited, giggles echo among the diners, and glasses of whisky clink. Check out the poem in its original text as well as it’s idiomatic translation HERE

Why would someone create such a food? Well, when all you have to eat is leftover sheep parts and you are near starvation because you are down to your last sheep, someone came up with the idea to use…ah… other parts. (I refuse to talk about fried testicles) The first mention of haggis is from way back in the 14th century, and some think it might have originated in Scandinavia, but the modern haggis is considered a traditional Scottish dish. Today, many are served in artificial casings, and sometimes served deep-fried in batter, or as a pizza topping. Unfortunately, it is illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lungs. The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to BSE, also known as Mad Cow Disease. Read more about this ban HERE

So, imagine my surprise when I saw bags of haggis chips for sale at a Highland games festival in North Carolina. I bought some, and the flavor was very reminiscent of the haggis I have tasted.  The ingredients listed are: Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Haggis, and various seasonings. Looks like someone snuck this by the US food patrol!

BLURB: My Reluctant Highlander
Skye has spent the last five years trying to forget the blacksmith who followed her back to 16th century Scotland, to help fight evil. Sending Jake Jamison home against his will was a disastrous mistake. Stealing his heart was not part of the plan.

Jake must share his secret, Skye must give her heart fully, and both must dare to love in the time they have.

She loves chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaids wrapped around the trim waist of a Scottish Highlander, the clang of broadswords, and the sound of bagpipes in the air. After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, she moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Triangle Area Freelancers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers.  

Connect with Nancy:

Barnes&Noble PRINT

Don't forget to leave a comment...and put your email address in the comment box! One lucky person will win a tote filled with autographed paperback books by the following authors. Nancy met up with them at the recent Romance Writers of America Conference. A winner will be chosen on Thursday, September 12th. The tote includes:

LORD OF DARKNESS by Elizabeth Hoyt
CRAVE THE MOON by Lori Handeland
A FAIRY TALE SAMPLER from Eloisa James
And a bag of Haggis Chips, all in a Tote (courtesy of  AVON)

*an international winner will receive a selection of ebooks instead.
**please leave contact information



M. S. Spencer said...

Hi Nancy, when I took my family to Scotland we tried haggis every chance we got--each time was different and generally delicious. I had a neighbor in Virginia who was a retired meat inspector & he told me he could get real casings--so you need to find a friendly meat inspector! Thanks for the blog--love the historical perspective. M. S.

Ann_a_reader said...

I'm not an adventurous eater so haggis falls into the I don't think so category but I'd try chips.

cate nugent said...

Haggis is OK,& those haggis crisp's are actually quite nice .....But the very best this to come out of culinary Caledonia is (drum roll please ...)
The DEEP FRIED MARS BAR, I kid you not ,and it's really rather delish .
But don't try making them at home -you need to be an expert Scottish chippie owner to achieve the decadent joy that is mars bar in batter :-)

Sandy said...

I can't imagine acquiring a taste for Haggis, but I'm an adventurous eater when I travel.

Molly Daniels said...

LOL...when I read the first paragraph, somehow 'haggis' registered 'hummis' in my brain...then realized what you were talking about! Yeah...not sure I'd be in any hurry to try Haggis, but I'm with Ann; I'd try a chip!

jean hart stewart said...

Don't think I'd ever really like the real stuff, but would definitely like to try the chips. Hope they stay around until I can find them....

Linda Pennell said...

Hi, Nancy. Love the post! I have it on good authority from my Glasgow born and reared friends that the real deal is delicious. I didn't work up the courage when we were in Scotland, but Haggis is on my bucket list, with another trip to Scotland, of course!

Kate Somerville said...

I took a tour of Scotland + tried it. Tastes like chicken! ;)

Great blog!!!

Rose Anderson said...

I enjoyed your post Nancy. My kids tried haggis when they backpacked across Europe. Son said "blech" daughter said, "it was ok". I might try a chip. The story sounds great by the way. Love those time travels!

Cara Marsi said...

You do a good job of making haggis sound tasty, but no thanks, I don't think I'll try any. Thanks for an interesting blog. I do love Scottish heroes.

Nancy said...

Remember...most Scots I talk to at the Highland Games I attend here in the states say it goes down quite easy when followed by a 'dram of whisky'!

LKF said...

Hi Nancy. I'm not sure if I could acquire a taste for Haggis, not everything tastes like chicken, but the chips sounds pretty good with the flavoring. My weakness is anything that comes close to a potato chip. : ) Loved your post and loved learning a little more about you.
Thanks for sharing.

Shelley Munro said...

My husband has eaten haggis, but I'm a vegetarian and wasn't about to experiment despite marrying into a family of Scottish descent. They often recite the Ode to the Haggis and pipe the haggis into the room during Burns day too.

Melissa Keir said...

My husband's family is all Scottish. They seem to enjoy some foods that I'm not sure of. And while I'd rather not starve, I'm not jumping to try Haggis. I loved learning about the perspective. :) Now I have some knowledge to share around the dinner table during our next family dinner!

daringzoey at

Unknown said...

Nancy, thanks for an informative description of the history and significance of HAGGIS. I often thought the name comes from the sound an unsuspecting neophyte makes when he hears what is IN haggis! My email address is Thanks for the book blurb, too; that was so enjoyable!

Lois Pomeroy said...

Hi Linda nice to meet you and your book sounds great I will be picking up a copy this week you may have a new fan . I am not a meat eater so the haggis would not appeal to me sorry. Will talk soon oh yes my email is

Kathleen Rothenberger said...

Nancy, you are a good wife. My husband is German and likes German food that I would not try if he paid me. So, the fact that you grew to like Haggis is very nice for your husband. I'm not that nice. HAHA. However, I love your books, so hope that makes up for the no-haggis comment...

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

My hubby ordered Haggis while we were in Inverness. He ate it and said it was okay. I tried a taste and it tasted gamey to me. I am not sure how true to what you posted it was, but I know it was widely used to fill in when you didn't have much to eat.

Nancy in NJ said...

Thanks for the "haggis" info. Quite interesting. Will have to try it some day!

Mickey said...

Hi Nancy, Such an interesting discussion on haggis. I grew up eating liver and kidneys. Maybe even a cow's tongue. How bad could haggis be compared to them.

Denise said...

Hi Nancy! Your book and cover looks great. Good luck to you! I'm sure Haggis is an acquired treat and can totally understand your view. Best wishes!


Crystal Benedict said...

Sounds like a good read and the Haggis sounds interesting. I don't know as though I would be brave enough to try it :)

Crystal Benedict said...

oops I forgot to add my email address

MinDaf @ said...

Thanks for sharing Nancy! What's up with the lungs? Are they dangerous to eat or what?

The right spices can make anything edible :).

MegMeg said...

What a neat giveaway!!! Great books selections. :)

Theresa said...

I am pretty sure I won't be trying haggis any time soon after reading that!

Theresa said...

Forgot to leave email

Nancy said...

In response to about sheep lungs: the ban precedes the US ban on UK beef and lamb meat, but nowhere can I find the exact reason the ban is still in existence. Someday, we should all head to Scotland and try THE REAL THING!

Mindy said...

Hi Nancy :)
I tried Haggis at RT 2013, It wasn't bad :)
The Whiskey ROCKED though. I LOVE your "The Reluctant Highlander" book :)
Will it be part of a series?

Mindy :)

Nancy said...

CONGRATULATIONS! My hubby chose THERESA as the winner of my tote filled with autographed books & a bag of Haggis Chips!

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