Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scottish culture in Casablanca - "A Nicht Wi' Burns"

   As many of you know, I've made friends here with people from all over the world. It's been so much fun learning about different cultures through random conversations that come up at work, or at the 'expat pub night' I attend pretty regularly. This past fall, a topic of conversation brought up by my Scottish friend, Andy, was that of "Burns Night". Most of us had no clue what he was talking about. He said that it's a night to celebrate the famous poet, Robert Burns. (crickets...chirping, as most of us have no idea who this 'famous' poet was that he is referring to) After getting over his shock that we were so culturally deprived to have never attended a Burns Night Supper, Andy declared that he would like to hold one here in Casablanca. At that time, we probably raised our glasses in a toast to this 'Burns' character (with most of us Americans just thinking about the guy from the Simpsons, wondering if they are somehow related.) and wondered if this night would come to be.

Well, being an avid & devoted Scottsman, Andy put a plan into motion and pulled it off brilliantly! On January 28th, I attended my first ever 'Burns Supper' at the Churchill Club here in Casablanca. The official flyer read:
The Churchill Club
Cordially invites you to

 “A Nicht Wi’ Burns”
Saturday 28th January 2012

Full Scottish Menu
Incl. Haggis, Neeps & Champit Tatties
Chicken Balmoral

Cranachan & Atholl Brose

All to the skirl o’ the pipes
‘Try and wear a wee bit of Scotland’

The whole evening was incredibly well-organized (not always the case with things here in Morocco), which is a tribute to Andy and the Churchill Club staff who worked with him in preparing the food and helping with the program for the evening. I'll go ahead and sort of take you through the evening via pictures and my own commentary. Should you fancy to know more about this event, here is a quick link: Burns supper
Andy, with help from Churchill Club members,
'presenting' the haggis for the program.

The supper officially started with the haggis being marched into the main venue and presented to the crowd, while bagpipe music played in the background. This was followed by Andy reciting a 48-line poem by Burns called "Address to a Haggis". (apologies for low quality of some of the photos)

'Address to a Haggis'

There were many toasts throughout the evening. Andy had even made Atholl Brose for us to enjoy. It is a drink made of oatmeal, honey, whiskey, and cream - somewhat like a Bailey's Irish Cream. I don't have pictures of it, as we seemed to consume the pitchers of it before I thought to take any snapshots. :-)

Chicken Balmoral (stuffed with haggis), Neeps, and
Champit Tatties

The food was amazing! I have to say, I wasn't sure how excited I was for my first taste of haggis. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Haggis itself is traditionally the sheep's heart, liver & lungs minced with onion & some spices, then mixed with a stock and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach. While Andy did bring the haggis with him from Scotland, ours was served as part of the Chicken Balmoral (stuffed inside of the chicken). This was then wrapped in bacon with a whiskey sauce and was absolutely delicious! I learned that Neeps are basically mashed turnips, and 'champit tatties' are mashed potatoes.

Along with the seemingly endless pitchers of atholl brose, we had cranachan for our traditional Scottish dessert.It is made from a mixture of whipped cream, whiskey (of course), honey, and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little whiskey. (are you picking up on the fact that the Scots enjoy their whiskey?!??!)  It was quite tasty as well.

The rest of the evening saw various toasts as part of the traditional program of a Burns Supper. Eventually, there was dancing. Fortunately, I don't have any pictures of that to share. :-)  In the end, it was a fabulous cultural experience that I was fortunate to share in the company of great friends.

The program for the night.                    Andy, the true Scottsman, and me!

With my friend Allen, former 'Beefeater' guard at Tower of London.
Cartoonish version of one of Burns's works.
Andy reciting Tam o'Shanter
With Tahir Shah, author of 'The Caliph's House' and
some other books. :-) He is also the father of one of
my lovely students, Ariane.


  1. This is awesome, Jodee. Now I have lots of ?'s about those kilts...!!!! I don't think every guy could wear one & look good (can you imagine dad or Jim in one!!!) but your friend Andy looks mighty nice in his kilt!!

    1. haha Mom. No, I can't imagine Dad or Jim or anyone in our family donning a kilt. Well, maybe Jeff, but I can pretty much see him in anything when drinking enough. :) My friend Jocylene had a bit of a 'surprise' on her camera the next day after one of the guys managed a picture of 'under' his kilt. haha