When It Comes to Haggis, Don’t Be Sheepish

Every weekend in January, get your fill of the famous dish while celebrating one of Scotland's favorite sons, poet Robert Burns.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

A taste of a real Scottish experience awaits this month—if you have the stomach for it.

Every January, the Argyle Restaurant in Kearny celebrates its Scottish roots with a birthday bash for Robert Burns, the motherland’s favorite poet. Burns wrote beautifully (and cheekily) about love, lice, and that legendary Scottish dish, haggis, a concoction of  sheep’s innards—liver, heart, lungs and entrails—mixed with meal and spices, stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

“You don’t want to boil it too hard,” says Argyle owner Bill Gordon. “If you do, the skin will break, and then you have soup.” The Argyle’s haggis comes from Cameron’s Market in Brick.

The festivities run three consecutive weekends starting on January 14, with an additional event on Burns’s actual birthday, January 25. Kearny was once flush with Scottish immigrants drawn to the city in the 1870s  by jobs with the Scottish Clark Thread Company. Though their numbers in Kearny have dwindled, Scots from throughout New Jersey and beyond still return for music, poetry and fine Scottish fare.

The Burns celebration is a smorgasbord of Scottish ritual. Bagpipes play and children in kilts  romp among the tables. Traditional battle songs are peppered with jokes and history lessons. Each evening culminates in the presentation of the haggis, a joyful ceremony that gives the sheep guts their due.

Last year, Jim DeMonic, an instructor at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, had the honor of reciting Burns’s “Address to a Haggis.” He held a silver platter of the stuff aloft while enunciating the ode in a thick Scottish brogue.

After the ceremony, cups of haggis are passed around for all to partake. “I wouldn’t want it for a meal,” says Gordon, “but it makes for a good appetizer.” As a proud Scot, I have to agree.

For information about this year’s event, check argylerestaurant.com.

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