.

 

January 25 is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759–1796). On or near this day, Scots worldwide gather for a supper of haggis (traditionally made of sheep innards), whisky, and poetry.

Henderson’s Salad Table is a vegetarian legend. This vibrant family business had expanded to three locations before closing permanently due to the 2020 pandemic. See Henderson’s vegetarian haggis recipe here.

.

Now it’s haggis and clapshot for Rabbie Burns’ Night,
Janet Henderson’s fashion, her Table in mind;
What a clamjamfry met for that vegan delight
In a basement where François Villon might have dined!
The young Janet was sickly, but her taste she refined
To “eat better, live better,” and popularize
An uncouth bill of fare in a town disinclined;
To proud Edinburgh swains she dared not advertise
Meatless meals, but her victuals pleased palates and eyes.
Every day twelve fresh salads, desserts, steaming stew,
Verdant superfood soup, moreish brownies, leek pies,
Mushroom crêpes, beetroot curry, whisky-flavored ragout,
And the legend so famed since nineteen sixty-two:
Scottish smoked lentil haggis, red wine gravy, and mash,
At this intimate spot suiting douce rendezvous.
Janet’s restaurant succeeded with local panache;
Her grown grandchildren joined her, but then came the crash.
A foul plague from the east caused sick rulers to fear
Commerce, health, and good cheer—might cost lives and their cash;
Thus they rendered life dour and closed tills for the year.
Och! Three bistros unique stand abandoned and drear;
Still to Scots, a defeat rarely alters their stance
Or remembrance. Burns’ birthday calls topers to hear
What their poets compose, and devotedly dance
With arms linked, in fond memory of graces divine,
Drinking drams of Glenfiddich to toast auld lang syne.

.

Gloss

clapshot: (line 1) mashed potatoes and turnips
clamjamfry: (line 3) rowdy crowd 
douce: (line 15) sweet, pleasurable
Dour: (line 20) severe, humorless
topers: (line 23) drinkers)
moreish (line 11) evoking a desire for more 

.

.

 

The Selkirk Grace

Prayer afore eatin that’s attreebute tae Robert Burns

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit!

.

.

Margaret Coats lives in California.  She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others. 


NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.

16 Responses

  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Oh Margaret! What an absolute delight of a poem with the extra bonus of a delicious looking recipe which I will most certainly try. Your wondrous words have taken me back to many a roisterous Burn’s Night in England. I have indulged in many a wee dram with steaming plates of haggis, clapshot and whiskey sauce (piped in, of course) followed by tipsy laird (an English trifle with Scotch instead of sherry).

    I particularly like, “An uncouth bill of fare in a town disinclined” – this resonates with me. I am hosting Burn’s Night with a twist for Texas friends tonight (Love Is Like a Rhinestone Rose 😉 ), and there is absolutely no way they would entertain haggis… so I’m doing shepherd’s pie with a clapshot and leek topping – “The Selkirk Grace” will feature. I also love the use of “Och!”, which is a wonderful and musical, Scottish sounding pairing with “unique”.

    Thank you for this treat of a poem! I am, however, sorry to hear of Henderson’s Salad Table’s circumstances – a sad indictment of our terrible times. I hope you will be sending them a copy of your superb poem.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Susan, I’m so happy to hear of another Burns’ Supper in an SCP household. And thanks for reminding me of tipsy laird! Although the free haggis recipe from Henderson’s doesn’t include their red wine gravy (pictured with other dishes if you click on “Henderson’s Salad Table” in the notes above the poem), that’s what I’m going to try to produce on Monday. I want my haggis to burst into steam and “blood” as the master of ceremonies plunges the sgian dubh into it. Best wishes with your event in Texas!

      Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This poem contains a fine example of the rhetorical figure called “accumulatio” or “enumeratio.” This appears in lines 10 to 15, where the poet lists several foodstuffs available at the restaurant. “Enumeratio” is a figure that always suggests exuberance, abundance, and repletion.

    Reply
  3. Christopher Flint

    No silence could more daunting get
    than Burns becoming rose
    now dead behind the bolted doors
    that Scottish fear would close

    though celebration carries on
    that nothing could prevent
    with toast that to a fare-thee-well
    will praise the ttme we’ve spent.

    ———

    Your homage by a bit o)f imitation befits the poet, the tragic demise of Henderson’s, and the impervious resilience of the stoic Scottish lot.

    Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Margaret, a sad story for our times. On Burns night, we English folk musicians, forever chasing a fast buck, become Scottish for one night. ( We also morph into Irishmen on Paddy’s night.) We never, ever celebrate St George’s Day over here, as Morris dancing is one of the activities an Englishman should never do unpaid. As a performer at many Burns events, our top songs are, “Will ye go Lassie go,” “Auld Lang Syne (complete version)” and “Caledonia” by the wonderful Dougie McLean. Having said all that, no Scotsmen over here ever eat salad. Thanks for a lovely poem.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      When I first ordered salad in London, the waitress asked, “Chicken salad or ham salad?” Henderson’s was a niche market, but offered such a variety of attractive food that even men could find something to enjoy. When I was there in 2018, there was also live folk music every evening; some of your fellow artists lost jobs as the place was forced to close. Thanks for mentioning MacLean’s “Caledonia”; I just listened to this beautiful love song to Scotland for the first time.

      Reply
  5. Peter Hartley

    Margaret – a very fine contribution for Burns’ Night, and having tried it myself I know how hard it is to write in English with a Scottish accent. I once spent a fortnight in Raigmore Infirmary in Inverness after a climbing accident at 14 and was introduced to the haggis by a mendacious reprobate in the next bed who told me all about the haggis and where it is shot and how fast it can run, how they are caught by the Trossachs in gin-traps before they have learnt how to fly. Recently I have been told that not all of this is true. And apropos a remark by Susan above my brother has lived in Scotland for the past forty years and he has learned to say ACH!!! with a guttural snort to avoid having to use the word OCH in polite conversation.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Margaret and Peter, I recall the time that Glasgow was selected be City of culture. People would roll out of pubs at closing time to find their cars jacked up on books.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Hmm . . . were they required to take the books home in order to retrieve their cars?

  6. James A. Tweedie

    Margaret,

    I spent my first year of marriage (1978-79) in Edinburgh in post graduate study at New College. My wife and I did not have much money but when we did eat out Henderson’s was one of our “go to” places. As I recall there was another similar eatery the was non-vegetarian that had the best trifle ever. But Henderson’s was a happening place with lots of young adults and university students savoring the lentil and cock-a-leekie soups (without the “chicken”!) and the occasional dash of live music (I remember a man playing duets on two recorders simultaneously).

    How sad to think that it is now a part of history.

    Your poem honors its legacy well. I hope you will forward the poem to those who owned and operated that iconic culinary oasis until defeated by the Covid.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      I was hoping to find another Henderson’s customer! Glad to know that you think the poem is a fitting tribute. I will try to send it to Henderson’s, as their website is still up–but has had no news posted since May 1, 2020. The permanent closing of all three locations was announced via newspapers in August or September. The reporter in the account I read had apparently talked to one of the Hendersons, who said that hopes for business to bloom as usual in spring 2020 were immediately dashed by the lockdown, and that delivery sales from the shop earned too little to keep debt from expanding. Sad story indeed from a place we recall in happy memories.

      Reply
  7. David Watt

    Hello Margaret, the permanent closing of Henderson’s is a sad reflection of our times. However, your mouth-watering, and lively tribute to Burn’s Night leaves us on a high note.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      I’m happy to focus here on just one of the innumerable family businesses that contribute immensely to any nation’s wealth and joy. The recent loss of so many of them is tragic.
      This pandemic is killing through disease, but according to the UN, will kill many millions more by starvation through its economic consequences. Nevertheless, lively high notes help us through traumatic times like these, and no better occasion for them than our time-honored celebrations!

      Reply
  8. Jeff Eardley

    Margaret, the cars were still there, just the wheels were missing. Encyclopaedia Brittanica was the volume of choice in Glasgow at the time as a full set could cover about twenty cars, and as Mr. Hartley remarks, being caught by the Trossachs is quite painful.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      I should have said, “retrieve the wheels,” and now I understand that I cannot get them back from Glasgow City Parking Enforcement, but must apply to the Trossachs in the Ministry of Culture. But that was a long time ago, no? Today libraries have so many books to discard that the choice for jacking up cars must be potluck.

      Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Thank you all for comments! I much appreciate them, whether they were answered individually or not. And now that it is January 25, Happy Birthday to Robert Burns!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.