Food and Drink 

An irreverent hagiography of haggis


Be ye friend or foe, be warned: the haggis is coming, the haggis is coming!

For years the serving of haggis on Robbie Burns Day, or night, as they refer to it in Scotland, has caused me much fascination. Not that I’ve ever attended a Robbie Burns dinner, although this year on the 25th I shall, complete with the piping in of the haggis and the reading of Robbie Burns’s Address to a Haggis.

Mere mention of the word "haggis" is enough to prick up my ears ever since I learned as a kid that it had something to do with eating a stomach. Anything so weirdly and ironically self-referential had to be very cool.

Despite my inattentive Burnsness, I have poked about a haggis, although I’m not sure how authentic or "good" it was. My husband brought one home from the local butcher one Robbie Burns Day and we created our own little Burnsian celebration, which, except for the very lovely smoky Scotch whiskey, was likely not very authentic, especially given the two of us are mixed breeds of Polish, Latvian, Irish and English – this by way of cultural excuse.

Poor Robbie. We thank you in absentia for your tolerance of our well-meaning intentions but wildly inauthentic, untraditional results. As I recall, the haggis itself was quite terrible, but overall the fascination remains.

All of the above must also hold true for Todd Wong, also known as Toddish McWong, witty creator and larger-than-life host of the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner that the overworked adjective "fusion" was invented for.

This perfectly Canadian event has grown from the first Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner Toddish hosted for his McFriends in his living room, to the spectacular multi-course, multi-cultural, multi-entertainment spectacle slated this year for Chinatown’s grand Floata Restaurant, the largest Chinese restaurant in the world. (On Sunday, Jan. 22 – just three days before Robbie Burns Day and a week before Chinese New Year – in case you’re interested.)

The whole Toddishness was born years ago when Todd, a fifth-generation Chinese-Canadian was desperately asked to help organize Robbie Burns Day celebrations at SFU, where he was a student at the time. The idea of a Chinese guy running around wearing a kilt in winter – as well as the Canadian multi-culturalism of it all – appealed to his quirkier self.

I’m not at all sure how venerable sons and daughters of Scotland would view all this, especially those in Scotland. Friends of mine returned recently from a grand tour of that fair land, and although for the most part people were oh so lovely and friendly, there was a certain pervasive properness and provincialism tucked into corners of even the more urbane centres.


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