Why My Family Thinks I'm Weird

It’s the haggis.

For my birthday last year, my parents-in-law gave to me a T-shirt. It’s plain grey flannel, with large blue letters suggesting that people should





I tried to find a picture of this t-shirt online so that I could show you what it really looks like, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. I suppose I could take a picture of my shirt with the digital camera and upload it, but I’m just too lazy to do that.

My family has a love-hate relationship with haggis. My stepfather, upon his entry into Clan Ross shortly before my wedding to Jennifer, began to explore his Scottish heritage, on line and off. Among the treasures he discovered were histories, jokes, websites about kilts, and… haggis recipes.

Personally, I’m not sure why you need a recipe for haggis. You take a sheep, you eat all the useful bits, then you take what’s left, chop it up fine, stick it in the sheep’s stomach, and boil it into submission. Voila! Haggis! But my stepfather had found plenty of recipes on line and kept sending them out to all of us. So when Christmas rolled around, Jennifer and my sisters and I all decided that my stepfather needed a haggis of his very own. So I went on down to the Scottish Meat Pie Company here in Dixon and for twenty dollars I bought my father a nine-pound haggis.

It has lain dormant in my parents’ freezer to this very day.

Me, I’ve had haggis three times in my life, and I’ve enjoyed it each time. The first time was when I was in Edinburgh last year. When I had it there, in a little out of the way restaurant near the hotel I was staying in, it reminded me more of Hamburger Helper than anything else: ground meat in a dark sweet gravy. It was really good. The chef had thoughtfully not left the sheep stomach on my plate.

The second time I had haggis was when we went to the Scottish games in Campbell last year with my parents. There was a booth selling all kinds of fried foods, including Haggis ‘n’ Chips. So, of course, I had to have some. My wife, brave soul that she is, tried a little piece of the haggis, made a face, and let out a delicate “Ew!”. I gave my father a bite; he ate it thoughtfully and said he’d pass on any more. And so, absent anyone to share my haggis with, I ate the whole thing. This time, it had a smooth consistency, something like liverwurst that had been slice into a disk and deep-fried. I thought it was delicious.

And the third time was just this past weekend at the Highland Games in Pleasanton. I saw the haggis booth and got straight into line while Jennifer went off to try to find some Scottish food that hadn’t been invented on a dare. She found a spiced meat pie, which she seemed to enjoy even while watching me eat my fried haggis.

I word my “Eat More Haggis!” T-shirt to the Pleasanton games, and that certainly got lots of comments: from the fellow who gave me a surreptitious thumbs-up to the sword-dealer who proclaimed boldly, “You couldn’t PAY me to eat more haggis!”

It’s traditional Scottish fare, but apparently the majority opinion on the planet is that haggis is a meal which is not for eating, but, rather, for putting down and running away from — very fast.

I like it though. And for this reason, my entire family thinks I’m weird.

Ever since we got my stepfather a haggis for Christmas, he has stopped tracking down haggis recipes on line and sending them out to us; and, furthermore, that haggis has yet to be eaten. The only thing I can figure is that we called his bluff, and now he is avoiding the issue. He has stated that during one of our trips down to visit my parents he will slip the haggis quietly into my wife’s suitcase, so that we’ll have it at our house, but he hasn’t yet done that. Too bad. I think it would be pretty easy to thaw it out, then plop it on the grill to cook it through.

I believe that there are other people in the world besides me who like haggis. There must be. It seems, though, that the society of haggis lovers is a secretive, furtive one; haggis eaters exchange knowing looks while standing in line at the haggis stand while their wives are off getting more sensible food; surreptitious thumbs-up signs are given; few wives will put up with haggis being eaten in their presence. And so my “Eat More Haggis!” T-shirt becomes not only a statement of my personal choice in food, but a cry for all of those who eat and enjoy haggis to come out of the shadows and eat their sheep sausage in the open, without fear.

[On another note: When I mentioned the title of this journal entry — “Why My Family Thinks I’m Weird” — to Jennifer, she suggested that I use an alternate title: “One of the Thousands of Reasons Why My Family Thinks I’m Weird”. It just doesn’t seem fair to me, though.]