05:15:10 pm on
Monday 22 Jul 2024

How Do You Say
Sjef Frenken

"How was your trip?" asked Jack as we sat down with our lunches.

He knew that Jennifer and I had driven down to visit our youngest son Ben who is living in Halifax at the moment. Together with his girlfriend, we'd driven up to visit her parents in the Mabou and Inverness area. We'd also done some sightseeing along the Cabot trail, and visited Baddeck, of Alexander Graham Bell fame.

"The kids had bought tickets for us to attend some of the concerts. It was Celtic Colours time. I swear every Cape Bretonner is born with a fiddle in his hand and tap shoes on his feet. We even got to see and hear Ashley MacIsaac on his best behaviour, playing as if his life depended on it. And I was introduced to one of the loveliest tunes that ever tickled my ear drums: Jerry Holland's Lonesome Eyes, beautifully played by a handful of teenagers. We had a great time, although I can see that one can easily overdose on Celtic music and Gaelic culture."

"That reminds me," said, "I have something for you." He dug into an environmentally correct tote he had been carrying, and handed me a paper bag with something in it.

I pulled out a can.

"Vegetarian haggis," announced Jack triumphantly.

I inspected the label. Yup, that's what it said: Vegetarian Haggis.

I said "Isn't that a bit of a contradiction in terms? I mean, don't you need all kinds of unspeakable and unidentifiable animal parts as the main ingredients?"

Jack said "You mean sheeps' stomachs, tongues, hearts, lungs and livers, fat trimmings and that kind of stuff. And don't forget the oatmeal."

I said "The oatmeal I can handle, but the rest is a bit over the top for me. My father used to rave over fried pigs' brains and blood pudding ... I found that hard to take, even though I was a carnivore myself at the time ... But haggis!"

"Well, you don't have to eat the real haggis now that I gave you the vegetarian alternative."

I said "Jack, there's a problem: I can imagine what the real haggis tastes like, even though I've never had it, and I'm sure I wouldn't like it. So, if the stuff in this tin tastes like the real thing, it's probably so awful, only a dyed-in-the-tartan Scot would eat it. On the other hand, if it doesn't taste like the real thing, why bother calling it haggis? Or even making it? See my dilemma?"

I started to read the list of ingredients: onion, mushrooms carrots, lentils, beans, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, tamari, lemon juice, rosemary, cayenne pepper, thyme, oatmeal and some other stuff.

"Actually," I said to Jack, "this doesn't sound all that different from the stuff I cook at home. In any case, thanks for the thought. I appreciate it."

"Think nothing of it," said Jack.

And that's what I did. The can, label and all, is proudly displayed on a shelf in my kitchen.


Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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