The Culture of Scottish Food
Whilst market street would not lead you to believe this, Scottish food, as traditionally built
around basic ingredients, has forever culturally relied on simplicity.
Scotland’s culturally cheap dishes were prepared with the principal purpose of keeping a
Scot warm – an especially desirable objective after this week’s “torrential” weather. Their
national dish, ‘haggis’, satisfies this intention. The curious dish is made from a sheep’s
innards and boiled inside the lining of its stomach; a comically shocking combination after
realising their national snack is a simple and safe shortbread.
Before I elucidate further on this deliciously intriguing dish, the wider culture of Scottish
food must be explored. Scotland is home to five foods: tattie scones, the tablet, Lorne
sausages, butteries, and their Ecclefechan tart. The tattie scone is a staple fry up made from
left over potatoes and traditionally drips in butter and salt. The tablet is the sibling to fudge,
however, the sensation of tablet on the tongue is made more delicious and enjoyable by its
rougher and crumblier quality. The Lorne sausage is an especially intriguing one; it answers
to the adaption of the popular geometry problem, “how do you square the sausage?”. This
feat of engineering is safely placed into a white roll. Butteries are a delicacy of the North-
east. Made as a savoury and salty roll, butteries are intent on lasting the lengthy day of a
fisherman. Finally, the Ecclefechan tart is a delicacy found in Ecclefechan and is sweat in
flavour. The traditional ingredients of walnuts and raisins festively evoke the flavour of a
Now, back to the most culturally significant dish of all for Scotland, the ‘haggis’. The idea of haggis is, as described by friends who have never tasted it before but have only heard,
“gross” and “ewy”. However, the taste of haggis is, although surprising, is incredible. This is especially made so after the chef has heavily seasoned it with onions, oatmeal, suet, stock, and dried herbs. I will admit the main ingredient of haggis is rather rogue, particularly after realising their national fruit is the basic apple.
The origin of haggis is shrouded in mystery. Evidence is scarce, but tales tell of the Romans
and their initial invention of this dish. However, unlike the Scots, the Romans adopted the
ingredients of pork and, contrarily, was made with the intentions of preserving meat during
a hunt rather than for pleasure and consumption. It was Alan Davidson who first suggested
Romans to be the omni-creators of this fine dish for practical purposes. He states: “born of
necessity, as a way to utilise the least expensive cuts of meat and the innards as well”. The
earliest records of Haggis can be discovered in a 1430 cookbook labelled ‘Liber Cure
Cocorum’. A Scottish poem dated 1520 also refers to haggis: “as thow walk for ane haggeis,
hungry gled”. This incredible dish has been loved and enjoyed way back to ancient times
and will forever remain a prided and cultural staple for all Scottish people.
I am currently aware there is a cultural food revolution taking place now in Scotland as chefs become more experimental. However, that is a discussion for next time. In the meantime, I urge you to dine out on haggis and whiskey (their national drink).