My immortal memory of Robert Burns
I make no pretence about being a learned scholar of Robert Burns, I’m not fluent in Scots, I frequently turn to the glossary to understand what words mean. However, when it comes to cooking, sharing food, and writing about it, the bard is probably my earliest, and perhaps even greatest influence. If you asked me my ethos on the food I cook then the words that would immediately come to mind are from Burns.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a’ that;
Give fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that.
Indeed, my first foray into food writing of any kind was creating a social media group amongst friends to share my recipes, and encourage them to share theirs. It was entitled ‘Though on hamely fare we dine’, such was the influence of Burns’ words on me. I think ultimately the reason was that Burns understood food, he understood what the common man had available to him to eat, while being invited to the finest tables in the country, with the finest ingredients. He still preferred to sit with friends in alehouses eating his hamely fare.
In the twenty first century, where we can easily switch off the seasons by simply importing ingredients rather than waiting on them. Where we buy food in the quantity supplied, rather than that which we need, allowing the rest to go to waste. Where we turn a blind eye to animals kept in squalid conditions in order to satisfy our ‘entitlement’ to meat, it’s very easy to take the food we eat for granted. For me food is about enjoyment, about the pleasure of cooking, of creating flavour, and sharing that flavour around great conversation. And celebrations of Robert Burns’ life brings that to the fore, but the other side we should remember is his celebration of hamely fare, writing his ode, not to the finest of food he would’ve enjoyed at sponsors tables, but the humble haggis. The ultimate thrift food, using pluck, oatmeal, and stomach lining, eking the last out of the sheep. In 2018 we would do well to remember the joy of sharing our table with others, and in utilising every part of everything we buy.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!