Eating Haggis

As soon as I stepped off the train in Edinburgh, I knew what would happen in this mountainous land, and I knew I was powerless to stop it. Tonight, it happened. I ate haggis.

No one was forcing me to eat haggis, of course, but it felt wrong to pass through Scotland without sampling its most infamous dish: a pudding consisting primarily of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs. This was Scotland’s national dish. As a travel writer, it was my duty to eat it.

I decided this shortly after lunch. I was so enthusiastic that I left for dinner at eight in the evening. The first three restaurants I visited didn’t serve haggis, and I began to think I had dodged a bullet. You can always try it tomorrow—or maybe the day after that, I told myself. Two bars I visited served haggis, but their kitchens had closed for the day. Well that’s that—go and get some real food, I told myself. But first I stopped at one last bar. As luck would have it, they served food until nine and had haggis on the menu. My fate was sealed.

You can still leave, I told myself while I waited for the food. You can make a run for it. You’ve already paid for it. You owe them nothing.

Too late—the smiling waitress is on her way over, and suddenly the haggis is in front of me. A hush falls around the nearby tables. Then the comments start.

“Ça, c’est le… l’haggis?” a French tourist asks. “C’est pas mal!” His girlfriend visibly disagrees.

It doesn’t look too bad, actually. But then again, I’m furiously scribbling in my notebook rather than picking up my fork. Time goes by and I take the plunge. The only thing worse than eating haggis is eating cold haggis, I suppose.

The verdict is swift. It’s really not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good: hearty, spicy, and peppery. But every time I bite into a crunchy bit, I can’t help wondering: is that the heart or the lungs?