Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sláinte Mhath! Happy Burns Night!

On January 25th the Celtic tribes of Scotland celebrate Burns Night by gathering for the Burns Supper, all in honor of the 248th anniversary of the birth of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759–1796). Burns distinguished himself not only by the quality of his work, but also by his willingness to write in the Scottish dialect. He preserved and disseminated a number of ancient Scottish and Celtic songs, including Auld Lang Syne, and played a major role in the preservation and expansion of that ancient culture.

The traditional Burns Supper consists of haggas, the Scottish national dish, and "bashed neeps" (mashed rutabagas) combined with a copious flow of whiskey and recitals of the master's poetry. The Selkirk Poem is the centerpiece of the readings, and especially these lines:
"Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
The recipe for mashed rutabagas is, of course, wildly popular and requires no elaboration (see below). Neeps have deep roots (no pun intended) in the Burns Supper tradition:
"NEEPS - or turnips, swedes or rutabaga, depending on where you are when you read this - is one of the traditional accompaniments to haggis on Burns Night.

"The neeps are normally served mashed - but on their own, not mashed in with the tatties. While most folk will simply mash the neeps unadorned, some will add butter or even some herbs.

"The story goes that neeps - or Brassica rapa - were introduced to Scotland by Patrick Miller, an entrepreneur and director of the Bank of Scotland, and the man who brought the threshing mill and drill plough to Scotland...

"King Gustav of Sweden supposedly sent the neep seeds to Miller: hence turnips are called "swedes" south of the Border." [The Scotsman, 1/25/07]

As for haggis:
"A haggis is actually a large spherical sausage made of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, all chopped and mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The mixture is packed into a sheep's stomach and boiled. Haggis is usually accompanied by turnips [sic.] and mashed potatoes; Scotch whisky is customarily drunk with it.." [Note the familiar confusion of "turnips" and "rutabagas."]
No doubt the willingness of Scots to eat haggis is directly proportionate to their consumption of the "Scotch whisky that is customarily drunk with it." For whatever reason, haggis producers are reporting record sales, which we fervently hope will have a coattail effect on the worldwide market for rutabagas.


Friday, January 05, 2007

World's easiest recipe for mashed rutabagas

After six years of meticulous research, and by popular demand, ARSI is proud to present its innovative recipe for mashed rutabagas, a holiday favorite around the world for centuries. Be careful to observe precautions, as noted.

STEP 1: Chop rutabagas.
IMPORTANT PRECAUTIONS: A new or sharpened axe is adequate for this purpose, though (if available) a jackhammer or industrial-grade chainsaw will work best.
For your personal safety, it is advisable to wear a helmet, body armor and goggles as the chopping process can create flying shrapnel that may cause serious injury or property damage.

STEP 2: Boil, then boil some more, until softened.

IMPORTANT PRECAUTIONS: May require extra cooking time at higher altitudes. Add a large pinch of salt to shorten cooking time. In ARSI's experimental labs, some varieties of rutabaga were marinated and cooked up to 28 days in a special blend that included sulphuric acid and potash. Impractical as this sounds, the result was exceptionally tasty.

STEP 3: Mash with milk, then mix in butter and salt to taste. Especially good with cinnamon or nutmeg.
IMPORTANT PRECAUTIONS: To avoid injury or property damage, make sure that the rutabaga is adequately softened before attempting to mash. Use of a blender will impart a smoother texture to the dish, but be sure to have extra blades available due to excessive wear-and-tear during the mixing process.

STEP 4: Serve plain or add a crater for gravy.
NOTE: In the unlikely event of leftovers, fashion into rutaburgers and pan-fry or broil for a splendid treat. Clean dishes and pots immediately to avoid crystallization of rutabaga residues. If disposal of leftovers becomes necessary, contact the Department of Environmental Quality for recommended procedures.

Additional note: Leftover mashed rutabagas have proven useful for various masonry applications. Stay tuned for additional developments in this exciting area of rutastudies.