The offal truth: Haggis has its historical roots in ENGLAND, AI claims on Robert Burns


Tonight, Scots will feast on haggis, neeps and tatties to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish poet. 

Ever since his 1786 poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’, the savoury pudding has been memorialised as Scotland’s national dish. 

However, according to an artificial intelligence chatbot, this cultural icon may not be what it seems. 

Bard, Google‘s free AI tool, claims the dish – made of offal, oats and spices – has its ‘historical roots in English culinary traditions’. 

It admits that haggis ‘plays a central role in traditional Scottish celebrations like Burns Night and Hogmanay’, but it has a ‘complex and interconnected history’. 

It's widely considered a Scottish creation and is frequently described as the country's national dish. But could haggis actually be English?

It’s widely considered a Scottish creation and is frequently described as the country’s national dish. But could haggis actually be English?

According to Bard, the first recorded recipes using the name ‘hagws’ or ‘hagese’ come from English cookbooks in the 15th century. 

What’s more, similar dishes using offal and animal stomachs existed in England for centuries before becoming linked to Scotland, the chatbot points out. 

‘Some food historians argue that haggis became less popular in England as the diet shifted towards more readily available cuts of meat during the Agricultural Revolution,’ it says.

While the historical English version of haggis used offal and herbs, the Scots can likely take credit for the introduction of oatmeal in the recipe, Bard admits.

AI tools like Bard and ChatGPT are trained with vast amounts of text to provide concise summaries, although they can make mistakes. 

However, Bard appears to be backing up claims made in a controversial 2021 article in The Economist by Scottish writer Emma Irving, who confidentially describes it as an English invention. 

‘What many people don’t know is that Scotland’s national dish was invented by their auldest of enemies: the English,’ said the researcher and Oxford graduate. 

Scots around the world will celebrate Burns Night today (January 25) in celebration of the life and poetry of poet Robert Burns. The haggis was famously described by Burns as 'Great chieftain o' the pudding-race' in 1786

Scots around the world will celebrate Burns Night today (January 25) in celebration of the life and poetry of poet Robert Burns. The haggis was famously described by Burns as ‘Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race’ in 1786 

What is haggis? 

Haggis is a savoury pudding composed of the minced sheep’s offal (liver, heart, and lungs) mixed with oatmeal and and spices. 

It’s traditionally served with ‘neeps’ (swede) and ‘tatties’ (potatoes). 

Haggis is banned in the US due to US regulations forbidding consumption of lungs from any livestock. 

In 1971, it became illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK – meaning many have to head home to enjoy the dish on Burns Night. 

No mention of haggis appears in any ‘identifiably Scottish text’ until 1513, when it briefly appears in a verse by William Dunbar, a Scottish poet and priest at the court of James IV. 

But this is nearly 100 years after the earliest recording of a haggis recipe, in an English cookery book called ‘Liber Cure Cocorum’ dating from around the year 1430 and originating in Lancashire.

Irving said haggis only became linked with Scotland after the Highland Clearances between 1750 and 1860, when many tenant farmers were evicted to make way for sheep.

She told BBC Radio 4: ‘Haggis, because it was so economical and also nutritious…became really popular north of the border.’ 

She said the stereotype of a poor peasant eating offal ‘was used to put successful Scottish people in their place’.

She added: ‘Burns saw this slight and he turned it into an accolade.

‘He saw the poetry in haggis, for him it became an emblem of Scottish character, sort of resourceful and hearty and unassuming and you know everything that the decadent English weren’t.’

According to Professor Rebecca Earle, a food historian at the University of Warwick, historical versions of haggis may have existed in England and Scotland in different forms. 

‘Lots of cultures have versions of a sausage-like thing comprising meat offcuts and some sort of grain,’ she told MailOnline. 

AI tools like Bard and ChatGPT are trained with vast amounts of text to provide concise summaries, although they can make mistakes

AI tools like Bard and ChatGPT are trained with vast amounts of text to provide concise summaries, although they can make mistakes

‘The specificities of that combination of grain and meat – oats, rice, wheat, lambs’ lungs, pig’s blood – is what makes each dish distinctive, but all are part of a broader category of food shared by many people.

‘We like the idea that some specific person “invented” a dish, but that is rarely how history works.

‘The fact that someone wrote down a recipe doesn’t mean no one made that dish previously.’ 

Due to the high carbon footprint of haggis, vegetarian haggis has increasingly become a fixture of the supermarket shelves in recent years.

Instead of offal, it usually contains a mix of vegetables and pulses, along with the usual spices and seeds to resemble the dark offal chunks. 

Scotland’s oldest tartan is recreated after fragment dating back 500 YEARS is pulled from a peat bog – just in time for Burns Night! 

Experts have recreated the oldest-known piece of tartan ever found.

The tartan was discovered in a peat bog in the Scottish Highlands around 40 years ago- but it dates back to the start of the 16th century.

Only in 2023 were scientists able to identify its age, thanks to dye analysis and radio-carbon testing. 

Now, experts at the House of Edgar have brought the stunning fabric back to its former glory.  

Pictured, the historical scrap of tartan in the centre and the new recreation surrounding it

Pictured, the historical scrap of tartan in the centre and the new recreation surrounding it 

Emma Wilkinson, the designer for House of Edgar who worked on the project, commented: ‘I create new tartans every day but this project is truly special – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recreate a piece of history.’

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