I was blessed to have two weeks away from work, away from Virginia and, for the first time in my life, across the pond from the United States.
During my vacation cruise to Scotland, the Shetland Islands, Iceland and Ireland, I forgot completely about email, telephones (my cell wouldn’t even work over there – oh well!), household chores, yard work and all of the other obligations that make us pop antacids and grind our teeth at night. It was fabulous.
But I did not forget about food. How could I? I live for food, and one of the most exciting parts of traveling for me is finding foodstuffs I cannot have at home. This meant that I did a lot of observing other cruise ship passengers who hailed from other countries and had their own favorite foods and eating styles.
It also meant that when I was ashore, I did my best to find eats that showcased that particular country’s best. There was fantastic fish and chips in Scotland, amazing salmon in Iceland, delicious toasties with Guinness in Ireland and, yes, even an encounter with haggis.
I was joking a little bit with my comment on Friday about the food I didn’t want to eat. Those who are familiar with haggis know that it’s like a sausage made up of pieces and parts from sheep, such as heart, liver and lungs. It is often bound with suet and oatmeal, then cooked inside a sheep’s stomach. We looked all over Edinburgh and the Inverness/Invergordon areas of Scotland for a sample of haggis, but timing and luck did not put us into contact with it until we reached Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands.
I’m still not convinced that what we ate was authentic haggis. I have read that a lot of haggis these days is made in casings, as are hot dogs and sausages of other kinds. Our haggis certainly looked like a sausage, with a thin layer of batter on the outside. You can see from the photo above what it looked like when we broke it open.
The flavor of haggis is nothing horrible; nothing that would cause a reasonable person to want to gag or spit it out. To me, it tasted like a heavily seasoned, very rich sausage. I detected a considerable amount of black pepper in our piece. By rich, I do mean that it had a fairly strong, gamey flavor and was clearly made up of some intensely unusual cuts of meat. To me, kidneys and liver in particular tend to have a very strong flavor.
I ate a couple of bites, but after a big lunch of fish and chips, I couldn’t stuff down any more. And I’m not going to lie and say I wanted to wrap it up and save it for later. But it was rewarding to have tasted haggis overseas and be able to check it off my foodie bucket list. Maybe I should call that my “trough list.”
I’ll be writing more about my travels and the joy of trying new cuisine in the next week. I am relaxed and content to be home in beautiful Virginia. We met some folks from England while we were away, and they asked us what kind of food Virginia is known for. I very proudly told them about our peanuts and our hams, as well as the lovely fresh produce we have in the mountains and the seafood we enjoy on the coast.
I sure didn’t miss cooking for the first half of my trip, but by the time I got home, I was ready to get in my kitchen and get my hands dirty again. It felt good to whip up a homemade marinade for chicken satay and thread the slippery strips of raw chicken onto bamboo skewers last night. Today, my fingernails are stained a yellowish-orange from the turmeric root in my marinade, but I couldn’t care less.
It is simply a sign that we can transport ourselves anywhere at any time by trying a new recipe, using a few exotic ingredients and incorporating a bit of imagination.
I may blog a bit irregularly this week (perhaps even more often than usual) as I catch up on what I missed while I was away and try to update you all on some news. Please leave a comment with any information or comments about what you’d like to be talking about as I get back into the swing of things! It’s great to be back here with you!