When BEMIS Scotland, the umbrella support organisation for Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minorities, invited groups to come up with activities around Burns Night as part of their Scotland’s Winter Festivals programme, SCoJeC’s thoughts immediately turned to kosher haggis.
The first kosher haggis in the world is made in the heart of Jewish Glasgow, at Mark’s Deli in Giffnock, and around thirty people crowded into the Deli for an early Burns Supper – a new collaboration between SCoJeC and Mark’s Deli, with funding from BEMIS. The event was livestreamed on SCoJeC’s Facebook page by SCoJeC Projects and Outreach Manager Fiona Frank, and attracted an international audience!
After the haggis was piped in and paraded up and down the restaurant, deli owner Mark Cohen, resplendent in his second best ‘drinking tartan’ (there is no Cohen tartan, but he enjoys wearing the Cowan kilt). He observed tradition by reciting Robert Burns’ famous Address to a Haggis. He also read a hilarious Yiddish version of the Bard's poem, written by Michael Levey to commemorate an occasion when the Manchester Beth Din had once questioned how haggis could possibly be kosher, despite Mark’s mother producing it under the supervision of the West of Scotland Kashrut Authority.
Mark’s haggis had also become an innocent victim of a trade dispute between Britain and the United States, so that when he tried to sent one by post, it was returned by US Mail. That led to him being invited to bring it in person to an event in Texas last year, where he declaimed the Address to a Haggis for a group of Scottish Americans. However, despite these setbacks, he now ships his haggis all over the world – to Israel, France, Denmark, Ireland, America, and even Luxembourg – and by the end of the month, Mark told us, he will have sold more than twice his bodyweight of haggis!
Kosher haggis also has the potential to become a cultural icon, after former First Minister Alex Salmond described it as symbolic of how Scotland’s many immigrant groups gel within Scotland. Mark sent a haggis to the Scottish Parliament in appreciation, but it is not recorded how this was received by the Parliament’s security staff!
Participants told us: “it was very enjoyable”, “it was good company”, “there was a great atmosphere”, and “we look forward to the next one!”
SCoJeC appreciates the financial support from BEMIS Scotland.