In 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh, Scotland for a weekend, before continuing on to York, England. Walking in the Princes St. Gardens, and down Castlehill made me realize I should get to Europe more often…not to mention, that Scottish countryside looks brilliant, too.
In any event, with my limited time, I wanted to try a couple of local delicacies. Thus, you might ask, what are a couple of the more famous things to try while north of Hadrian’s Wall.
This duo presents a very small sampler, and one built for travelers lacking time for a sit-down meal.
On the left, we have Irn-Bru, Scotland’s most famous aerated water, nowadays called soft drink. Originally called Iron Brew, it was created in 1901 by the Barr family as an alternative to beer for construction workers busy renovating Glasgow Central (train) Station. To keep the workers pepped up – and to evade drunken behavior – caffeine and sugar were the key selling points of the new “tonic.”
Although they had to stop producing Iron Brew as a consequence of World War II, in 1947, AG Barr changed the name to Irn-Bru, in response to proposed regulations requiring drink names to be “literally true.” (In that case, what’s an irn-bru?)
Initially, Iron Brew had used Scottish athletes to promote their brand to the populace. Ironically, however, given the drink’s raison d’être, it came to be popularized as a hangover cure by Scottish comedians like Billy Connolly.
And, just as Inca Kola bests Coca-Cola in Peru, Irn-Bru has outsold the Atlanta behemoth since the latter was introduced to the UK decades ago.
On the right, haggis potato crisps (chips in the US). OK, so I cheated here…whereas haggis is arguably the most famous Scottish food – or infamous, since shortbread is an easier sell – I still wanted to try it. After all, it’s banned in the US.
What is haggis? Sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with suet (hard fat) and oatmeal, served in a sheep’s stomach; the consistency is not unlike a crumbly sausage. Not exactly primed to photograph for a blog, though I would’ve done it, if there were take-out haggis joints in Edinburgh…maybe.
What’s the best time of year to sample it? During a Burns Supper on January 25th, the birthday of the renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Or, in potato chip form, alongside a bottle of whiskey. (You thought I was going to say Irn-Bru, didn’t you?)