Haggis challenged

Haggis challenged

Michael Jackson hunts for duck soup - of a sort
Over Sylvester, I had hoped finally to taste Czernina. It was not to be. Next year in Lvov? We are all looking for Lvov, and we all begin a new year with fresh hopes. I have travelled to Warsaw and Cracow; I have visited Poznan and Lublin, but never found Lvov. It’s a tricky place to locate, having at different times been in Poland, the Ukraine and The Soviet Union.As one of the claimants to an historical role in the creation of vodka, Lvov could settle Slavic disputes by proving that this dubious achievement took place in all three of the aforementioned countries.If this cannot be achieved, I must admit I have a slight preference for Poland.I have almost always lived in Polish neighbourhoods. They are easily recognisable. It’s easy to tell. The grocer is called Grabowski, and New Year is known as Sylvester. Some of my best friends are Poles, though I wish they would put up or shut up regarding Czernina. It is cat soup, made from the blood of felines. Sorry about that blood libel. Czernina is made from the blood of ducks.Poland, like Scotland, has a cuisine that requires nerves of steel and an asbestos stomach. Healthy? Polish food makes strong men lose their hair. Notice how many young Polish men are prematurely bald. Scottish food makes young men go prematurely grey.These musings were triggered by a recent guest in my home, a Polish American from Chicago. He brought me a book as a gift. It is a collection of columns by Mike Royko, another Polish American from Chicago.The writing of columns may be a minor craft, but it is to be appreciated if it is done well. Royko, who died five or six years ago, was much admired by Chicagoans and by those of us who write columns. He spoke on behalf of the common man: urban, blue-collar, demanding no more than a fair deal, a decent neighbourhood bar and an occasional winning streak for the Cubs.The power in his writing was its literate simplicity. When I dipped into the collection, it was like a box of chocolates; once I got my molars into them, I could not stop. Some of the columns had a soft centre; others could break a tooth. Suddenly, there was a taste of blood. Duck’s blood. Royko was discussing Czernina. Well he would, wouldn’t he? Except that he was writing about Czernina versus Haggis.At first bite, this did not seem the sort of gut Chicago issue in which Royko specialised. It turned out that he was irritated by the coverage accorded in the society pages to “Chicago’s most prominent Scotsmen” on St. Andrew’s Day or Burns’ Night.He noted that the Scotsmen “gather by the hundreds”, as though this in itself were an offence. The actual charges were that they make a big fuss out of eating something called haggis, and that “they act as though they like it.”Royko reckoned they were “trying to impress us with what iron-gutted guys they are” If this was the case, he would put czernina up against haggis any day”To this end, he proposed a challenge in which teams of czernina-drinkers and haggis-eaters would not only scoff their own ethnic heritage but also swap places. If this ever happened, I missed it. Czernina still eludes me, despite my persistent lurking in Chicago.Haggis is alive and well and living in any decent hotel in Scotland for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or at least one of the three.Royko reckoned that the macho quotient of haggis is “no big deal” and I am inclined to agree. Whether the wee mountain creature is more or less macho with sauce, I am not sure. Just make sure the sauce is a well-peated malt. 
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