We experienced the sort of Burns Night supper last night that combined the best of the tradition, yet in a kind of evolved, almost deconstructed way.
A spontaneous, last-minute invitation was a welcome joy, and could we help with the preparation? We’d done a few formal Burns Night suppers in our time, hosting a crowd of a hundred in the village hall. A few neeps, boiling and mashing, and a vegan sauce, and maybe some party piece preparation, just in case we were importuned, all followed in the late afternoon.
Arriving to the strains of bagpipes (Alexa was turned way down, but we heard tales later of an overwhelming experience in Canada), we settled right in. Odd, but in our new village setting we knew almost everyone, and we were all introduced to a lovely guest, as ten of us sat down to table. The Selkirk Grace was freely given, and plates of steaming haggis were passed down. Bowls of mashed tatties and neeps, a rich vegan, gluten-free sauce glooped out of the insulated jug, and wine (red or white) or good lager was proffered. Whisky too, of course, though that treat awaited later evening indulgence.
The address to the haggis was mercifully short, for the great chieftain of the pudding race was rapidly cooling on our plates, but suitably exhorted, we stuck in, some of us returning for seconds of the full-bodied haggis. Around the table, after the quietude of eating, the conversation flowed.
And then we moved easily into the more comfortable chairs of the living room, and party pieces were trotted out. All thought-provoking, but I particularly loved the sections of Rabbie Burns’ Tam O’Shanter where the line, ‘Gathering her brows like gathering storm, nurturing her wrath to keep it warm’ featured. No wonder at all that this long poem cemented Burns’ poetic reputation.
The readings were lovely, but the conversational riffs thereafter, and the hilarity elicited, felt like the most apt way to celebrate the Bard of Scotland. It seemed that anecdotes, musings and adventures in discovery were the best party pieces, even though, perhaps because, they weren’t rehearsed. For us, our first Burns Night in Scotland, it was a delight.
It was all a super evening, developing new friendships, thinking about serious things, laughing together.
These occasions don’t often come around like this, in my experience, and it’s a special joy to commemorate them when they do.