Today I join my Scottish friends in raising a dram of single malt to celebrate Burns Night – the observance of Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Known to the world as the inventor of the Romantic movement, Robert Burns was an incredibly gifted individual, and apparently a real lady’s man. He was also an inspiration to socialists, but don’t hold that against him. He was a brilliant wordsmith who is deserving of a day of recognition, complete with public readings of his work, Scotch broth and a healthy serving of haggis – the infamous meat pudding made with oats, beef lung, and sheep’s heart, lungs and liver.
Although I’ve never had the privilege of taking part in a real Burns supper, I have had the opportunity to dive face first into a plate of haggis. While it’s not something I’d eat everyday, I like it quite a bit. Although I do tend to have a gastronomic lust for offal. In my chest freezer, it’s not uncommon to find beef hearts, tongue and liver. I think I may even have a small pack of lamb kidneys in there, too.
In any event, while I understand some Americans might not appreciate the joy of haggis, all Americans should appreciate the fight that some Scottish-Americans are facing this year during Burns Night.
Black Market Haggis
It turns out, real haggis is banned in the United States.
According to recent piece in the Guardian, haggis has been outlawed since 1971.
It is the sheep’s-lung component of the recipe that the US government takes issue with. A 1971 federal regulation ruled that “livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food”. Traditional haggis contains around 15% of sheep lung – said to give it a nutty flavor and improved texture. The 1971 law effectively made it illegal to import or sell traditional haggis.
Of course, if you have the option, you can probably go to a local farmer who raises sheep, buy the whole thing, butcher it and make your own. But certainly that’s a lot to go through if you don’t live in a rural area. And a costly venture, I might add, just to give the proverbial middle finger to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
You can also just get haggis that doesn’t include the sheep lung. But then those bastards at the USDA win.
So what’s a haggis lover to do?
I’ve heard there’s a black market for real haggis. I’m not kidding. But I have no idea how to work my way into the underground of black market haggis dealers. Meth, heroin, stolen firearms – that stuff I can get pretty easily. Haggis? Not so much.
While I am leaning on a bit of satirical sarcasm here, there is one undeniable truth about the ban on haggis …
It’s a slap in the face of food sovereignty.
Think about this for a moment …
Foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, bleached white flour, sodium benzoate, and a whole host of other designer chemical cocktails can be found in any supermarket in the country.
Yet, all of these ingredients are known to be extremely unhealthy and even toxic when consumed in large amounts. All of these ingredients are completely legal. Which, for the sake of clarification, is the way it should be. Yes, consuming these ingredients can pose a health risk, but taking that risk is up to the individual, not the government.
But sheep lungs? No way, Jose! No sheep lungs for you! They’re too dangerous and bad things could happen, so a group of “experts” will keep you safe and completely fuck you out of a proper Burns Night.
In any event, if you are celebrating Burns Night this year, I do hope you can pick up some traditional haggis. And if not, don’t fret. Save your pennies, hook up with a local farmer and conspire with him or her to create the most delicious haggis next year – complete with all of the appropriate ingredients.
But whatever you do, don’t sell it! Remember, it’s against the law – for your own good!
The Libertarian Treehugger