I'll start this guest post with a confession: My name is Rhino75 and I'm a professional foreigner. By that I mean that I'm one of those people who have lived outside their home country for so long that they no longer fit in properly anywhere. Ask me where I'm from and I won't miss a beat: "I'm British" I say in my best Home Counties accent. But when I'm actually back in the "old country" I fumble with small change, I'm confused by public transport and I don't recognize two-thirds of the people on the telly. Yet in France, my adopted country, I'm seen as the embodiment of all things British, a kind of unofficial spokesman. "What do people in *your* country think about this?" French friends ask me, while offering me another cup of French-style tea (weak, without milk). Or "We're planning a weekend in London, what do you recommend we see and do? And where should we stay?" Do I come clean and say "I've absolutely no idea"? Or "The last time I was in London, I spent almost the entire weekend in Dalston, with only a brief foray out to the White Swan in Stepney"? No, because they'd be disappointed. So I quite simply make it up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining - being from a different country has provided me with a nice sideline in media punditry over here. But the truth of the matter is that, after 12 years, France is naturally more familiar to me than Britain is. When I bump into people in the street, my first instinct is to excuse myself in French. I know the names of most of the main politicians - in Britain, I recognize Brown and that's it - and all the tv stars. I can tell the difference between a 2 centime and a 5 centime coin with my eyes shut and can describe all the symptoms of my cat's asthma without getting a single noun gender wrong. I know the right wines to drink, the right gifts to take to dinner parties and can even decipher the alphabet soup of French bureaucracy. While the Britain I knew, the Britain I remember, no longer exists, not quite as it was anyway. The references are different, the goalposts have shifted, leaving me feeling hopelessly old fashioned. Someone asked me on a recent trip home how I feel when I return to Britain and I replied "Like David Niven" - and yet the country of my birth is the very thing that defines me, at least initially, to many people I meet. "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man," runs the old Jesuit motto. But does that count for national identity too, I wonder?
I am what you could call an unfussy eater - I once even carried on eating those wormy Italian cherries, because I figured, oh well the little worms only ate cherry. The other day, though, I saw "Creamed Haggis" on a restaurant menu and thought -rather you than me.
Haggis is more than a dish- it's a right of passage. "Oh, in Scotland... have you had haggis then?" people ask automatically.
But before we go on, let's see what it actually involves, this is an original Scottish recipe:
1 sheep's stomach, cleaned and scalded, soaked overnight, turned inside out heart and lungs of 1 lamb 450g beef or lamb trimmings, fat and lean 2 onions, chopped 225g oatmeal 1 tbsp salt & ground black pepper 1tsp ground dried coriander water, enough to cook the haggis stock from lung and trimmings
Well, what do you think? Recently, the Lonely Planet Guide called haggis an extreme food together with other revolting national dishes like worms and tarantula. (quote)
Since I 've lived here, my impression is that very few people actually enjoy haggis. It is much more about 'Are you man enough to try something that most people would find off-putting? Have you got what it takes to be one of us? Or are you the eternal tourist? A weakling, a softie who isn't up to the rough but ever so endearing ways of ushere.'
A simple dish has been turned into an ideological milestone - a taboo, that you need to break in order to be accepted.
I think food should be enjoyable. If you like haggis, fine -no problem. If you don't, also fine - but don't turn it into a character judgment!