A Bangor company sends this Scottish delicacy to a sunshine state soiree.
It was, by some press accounts, the high point of the Hollywood premiere of Disney Pixar’s animated film Brave: Scottish comedian and actor Craig Ferguson reciting Robert Burns’ “Ode to a Haggis” as he took a knife to a bulging sac of his homeland’s national dish. This particular serving of haggis, a crumbly blend of offal, suet, oats, and savory spices traditionally served in a sheep’s gut, was a bit untraditional, however, prepared as it was not in the royal city of Glasgow, but the Queen City of Bangor.
W.A. Bean & Sons Meats, best known as a maker of the florid red hot dogs that are distinctive to Maine, is one of a handful of American producers of haggis, thanks to a partnership with McLays Ltd. of Glasgow, maker of McKeans of Scotland haggis. W.A. Bean’s haggis, sold under the McKeans of Scotland label, is virtually the same as that made by McLays, with two exceptions.
“The Scottish make it with sheep lungs, and we can’t do that here. It’s not allowed by the USDA,” explains W.A. Bean president David Bean. “The USDA also requires that we use an artificial casing, rather than a sheep’s stomach.”
McLays approached W.A. Bean about making haggis for sale in the United States about six years ago, a connection facilitated by Ron Thurston of Falmouth, whose wife is from Scotland. The two companies found they had much in common, including a long history as meat suppliers. Gordon Wallace, McLays’ head of production, flew to Bangor “with knowledge and the spices,” Bean says. “He spent a couple of days here, and we made haggis.”
Americans tend to be squeamish about organ meats, so W.A. Bean makes only three thousand pounds of the stuff a year, about three-quarters of it around January 25, Robert Burns Day. The company sent thirty-five pounds to the Wolfgang Puck-catered premiere of Brave, the fictional story of a red-haired princess who saves her Scottish kingdom from a curse. Attending the party with Craig Ferguson, Kelly Macdonald, Robbie Coltrane, and other Scottish stars who lent their voices to the animated flick was Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who said the country’s tourism office “can look forward to a boost of around 140 million pounds.”
Perhaps a wee bit of that anticipated good fortune will fall upon W.A. Bean & Sons. —Virginia M. Wright