Our family has annually celebrated Burns Night Supper for the last decade, only taking last year off. My husband, with a fair amount of Scottish blood, has been celebrating this Scottish holiday – homage to the birth of the poet Robert Burns – since he can remember. He grew up being part of these semiformal parties, complete with a bagpiper, such that bag piping became a very romantic sound to him (others parallel the sound to cats in heat). When my husband and I were dating, his mother employed me to help with the event, which involved cooking all day (and then some, as she prepped for and made several dishes ahead). Guests enjoyed Bubble and Squeak, quiches, buttered peas, roast beef, and even the national dish, haggis (which is really wonderful – not scary at all).
Max and Holly are part of the tradition in our family, as well, though the piping is a bit more alarming for their little ears. It takes about three days to cook for the event, and the piles of dishes and linens grow in our tiny house, as we make sure we have all of the equipment we need. This weekend we’ll pour a little scotch, lads will don their kilts, and the bagpipes will scare all of the mice away from beneath the stairs.
Robert Burns was an artist in all senses of the word – he lived life brazenly, and wrote poetry documenting it that stirred the spirit and raised a few eyebrows. He wrote about the beautiful countryside in Scotland with equal passion as outings with friends for a tassie of wine. He documented the valiant efforts of now deified martyr Scots who gallantly fought for their country. And he wrote just as often of the melancholy cycle of life – of daisies ploughed under or loves lost at sea – as he did of silliness – odes to a mouse, haggis, or louses.
Robert Burns’ work reminds me that the world is ours to color. We can frame our photos as best conveys our feelings on a hike. We can collect sticks and rocks, and assemble some wild art. Max can invent names for flowers he sees and devise their ecology, pooh-poohing any laminated field guides I might offer him – who’s to say he is wrong? And Holly’s new eyes can take in the beauty of an emerging spring, with no preconceived notions of what it should be – it’s her first spring to witness, after all. We hope you are able to appreciate a Stroller Hike this week – and if you hear the bagpipes, you’ll know where the party is! (Sorry we can’t invite all 400 of you!)
-Debbie, little Max, and wee Holly
p.s. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go askew.” Scott Anderson read Robert Burns’ “Ode to a Mouse” last night, clad in his regal kilt. Many of our Burns Night guests were pleased to recognize it and finally realize its origin. Burns Night is over – one day after I wrote the essay above – and we have plenty of evidence for it happily not going askew. There are piles of dishes and linens waiting to be washed, several half-finished bottles of wine (and one exceptional bottle of scotch), as well as one carefully reserved slice of chocolate torte for Max (who was off to bed before dessert). Burns Night Supper was a success in several ways – I managed to reheat potatoes, squash, and red wine reduction sauce with curious neon pink gel, Holly smiled at the bagpipes during our processional of the Haggis (she must be a true Scot), and Stroller Hikes made a few hundred dollars, as this was a fundraising dinner this year.