OOH, you are offal! Well, this week’s Icon is. Fair to say not everyone has the stomach for haggis. Not everyone has the pluck. That’s because, traditionally though not so much nowadays, a sheep or calf stomach is what haggis would be boiled in. And pluck is the name of the minced offal (heart, liver and lungs) that form the main ingredients, along with oatmeal, suet, onion, spices and salt. How awful. Imagine adding onion to anything (though I think it is optional).

Haggis, then, is what would be classed as a pudding, though I wouldn’t add custard to it. As a dish traditionally associated with Scotland, stand aside swiftly lest you be crushed by the usual stampede to prove that it isn’t Scottish at all. Yawnorama.

First, in really ancient times – before supermarkets – cavemen are said to have cooked offal in hides over a fire immediately after a kill to stop it going off and so as not to waste anything. News reports and cookery books from the time attest to this.

It’s also said that Aristophanes mentioned something like a haggis exploding in 423 BC (no casualties), but the Greek playwright was more of an expert in sausages, and it’s thought more likely that it was one of these to which he was referring.

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Anglo-Irish food writer Alan Davidson traced haggis to the Romans and, ach, so it goes on. Yada-yada. As for the word, there’s a lot of tripe talked about haggis here too. Some say it came from – all together now – the Vikings. Yep, thaim again. The old Norse haggw or Icelandic hoggva, meaning “to chop” is said to refer to chopping the offal into bits. I see.

The old French hacheiz, meaning “minced meat,” is also desperately adduced, supposedly coming from agace, “magpie,” being an analogy of the bits of rubbish the bird collects. That word is obviously “hash”, though, as in corned beef and whatnot (similar to our stovies, which were no doubt invented by the Etruscans), which is not the same thing at all.

Of course, no history of any Scottish icon would be complete without the claim that it is actually English. And, to be fair, the first known written recipe refers to “hagese”, in a cookbook dating from around 1430 in yonder Lancashire. Another English cookbook of that time refers to the “hagws of a schepe”. Still, we weren’t too far behind, with the Scots poem, ‘Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy’, dated before 1520, referring to ‘haggeis’. All of which proves only one thing: nobody in the past could spell.

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The Scots really stravaig into contention with the idea that haggis was a good portable meal for Highland cattle drovers to put in their lunch boxes when waddling forth to the markets.

It’s also claimed that when a chieftain or laird ordered an animal to be slaughtered so he could pig out, he would generously let the butcher keep the offal, which sounds authentic with its theme of common Scottish people being treated like, well, peasants and being awarded the crumbs off the table. Nothing changes.

I should record here that Scottish people do not eat haggis every day. Burns Night will do for many, when it’s meant to be accompanied by a dram. But the truth is there’s bound to be a fair few Scots who can’t stand it. In my experience, the vast majority of Scots – male and female – can’t stomach whisky, never mind haggis. These days, you’re probably looking at veggie haggis washed down with a traditional Scottish vodka and Coke.

Veggie haggis, incidentally, is said to account for between 25 and 40 per cent of sales (sounds like a bit of guesswork going on there). Substituting pulses, nuts and veggies for the offal, veggie haggis produces a fair facsimile but, in my experience, suffers from the usual vegetarian drawback of being too dry.

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Perhaps a compromise, following the inspiring example of comedian Count Arthur Strong with sausages, would be to have vegetarian haggis as the accompanying veg for proper haggis. Usually, of course, the accompaniment is mashed tatties and neeps, the latter never eaten by anybody under normal circumstances, no matter how peckish.

If you are peckish, haggis can take an irritatingly long time to boil: more than an hour usually.

You can do them for nine minutes in the microwave if you’re not worried about your house going on fire.

Foreign countries are funny about food and, in 1971, the US banned imports of haggis because it contains sheep lung. American health authorities have a thing about lungs, which they say have a risk of containing stomach acid and phlegm. Phlegm: that’s what vegetarian haggis lacks.

According to one study, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believe haggis to be a living beastie that is hunted with shotguns in the glens. A substantial number also believe Edinburgh Castle is put up every year for the Tattoo.

Many folk of many nations believe that haggis hurling was a sport of ancient origin, probably because they are often tellt that by cheeky folk. In fact, it’s a sport of modern origin, invented – it is said – by Robin Dunseath, ex-president of the World Haggis Hurling Association in 1977 as a practical joke for the Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh.

The idea is that, standing on a whisky barrel, contestants lob the haggis as far as possible. Fairly simple. No offside rule. That said, there’s more to this than hits you in the eye. For it’s imperative that the cooled haggis does not burst and spatter, which would see a throw disqualified.

The official world record for haggis hurling is 217 ft, which feat was achieved by Lorne Coltart at the Bearsden & Milngavie Highland Games in 2011.

So, haggis has come a long way since its humble origins. You can get it in pakora. You can get it in pizza. You can get it battered in a chippie supper. Bet yon Aristophanes would have loved to chomp on one of these.