Dietary Lessons From The Scots

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I just returned from a Scottish Weekend Celebration at an idyllic country resort called Mohonk Mountain House. One of the highlights was the “Burns Night”, where we partook in a traditional Scottish meal. I was very impressed with the nutrient density of the fare. To honor the great poet, I thought I might extoll the virtues of haggis as well.

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Robert Burns known for his witty poetry is a national hero in Scotland. Every year on January 25th (his birthday) a haggis is paraded into the hall over skirling bagpipes and his poem “Address to a Haggis” is ceremoniously recited. The haggis is skewered and served with “Neeps and Tatties” (Turnips and Potatoes) and a dram of whisky. Other fare includes Scottish salmon, kale, leeks and cabbage.

See the end of this post for the original Scottish poem with an English translation

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What is a haggis you might ask? Traditionally it was finely chopped sheep entrails including the heart, liver, and lungs mixed with the back fat, oats, spices, and seasoning; stuffed into the stomach and cooked. Most modern westerners would turn their noses up at such a meal, or as Burns would say, “sic a dinner”. Such a shame. Organ meats are traditionally the most nutrient dense of all foods, which is the name of the game for me. It is what I recommend as a staple of any diet where nutrient density is the goal. Read more about it in my previous post.

The highlanders were traditionally larger, stronger, faster, and able to defeat much larger groups of enemies in hand-to-hand combat. They could recover from horrible wounds that would have been fatal to most other men.  Their secret was clearly their diet, as all European peasants were physically active.(1)

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Weston A. Price studied the diet of the Scottish population in the Outer Hebrides Islands. The island of Lewis has so little lime in its soil that it is said that there are no trees in the entire island except a few which have been planted. The pasturage of the island is so poor that exceedingly few cattle are to be found, largely because they do not properly mature and reproduce. Their nutrition is provided by their oat products and fish, and by a very limited amount of vegetable foods. Lobsters and flat fish are a very important part of their foods. Fruits are practically unknown. Yet the physiques of these people are remarkably fine. (2) They also had very little tooth decay. The most nutrient dense foods are fish, shellfish, and organ meat, so this is not a surprising observation. (3).

Haggis is not readily available and I am not suggestiong you go out of your way to eat it. I am suggesting that you include fish (especially salmon), shellfish, and organ meat in your diet. If you are unable to eat organ meat, I recommend Ancestral Supplements as a great way to enjoy the benefits without the taste.

English Translation of “Address to a Haggis By Robert Burns

Good luck to you and your honest, plump face, Great chieftain of the sausage race!

Above them all you take your place, Stomach, tripe, or intestines:

Well are you worthy of a grace As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill, Your buttocks like a distant hill, Your pin would help to mend a mill In time of need,

While through your pores the dews distill Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe, And cut you up with ready slight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like any ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm steaming, rich! Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive: Devil take the hindmost, on they drive, Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by Are bent like drums; Then old head of the table, most like to burst,

‘The grace!’ hums. Is there that over his French ragout, Or olio that would sicken a sow, Or fricassee would make her vomit With perfect disgust, Looks down with sneering, scornful view On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash, As feeble as a withered rush, His thin legs a good whip-lash, His fist a nut; Through bloody flood or field to dash, O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread, Clap in his ample fist a blade, He’ll make it whistle; And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care, And dish them out their bill of fare, Old Scotland wants no watery stuff, That splashes in small wooden dishes; But if you wish her grateful prayer, Give her a Haggis! (4)