Between courses, we were treated to traditional Scottish entertainment (pictured above) of fire dancers and men reading poetry while wielding enormous knives. We were told that the Scots party in such ways nightly. The girl with the sticks of fire successfully got the fire scarily close to her hair without setting it on fire, so good on her. That was really cool, and if I talked to her I would have asked her how she keeps from burning her hair at social occasions, a feat I cannot say I have achieved 100%. The scary man was one of the guys running the entertainment, and he read the all-important Address to a Haggis, Burns's most famous poem. I don't think the enormous knife was necessary, as the words are scary enough. It's pretty long, and it's pretty gory when it gets into the making of haggis (so gross). Not vegan-friendly, this poem, except maybe the first line, which is
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
so if you focus on deciphering this opening, you will be sufficiently distracted for the rest of the crazy ass poem and won't have to worry about listening to rhymes about murdering animals, because you will never decipher this.
The food was decent. While omnivores started with rye bread covered with lox and some kind of dilly cream, vegetarians got that same rye bread covered with spinach salad and cubes of roast vegetables. Not the most obvious choice for a piece of toast, but whatever, greens are good, bread's good, root vegetables are okay.
Thank goodness for vegetarian haggis. So, real haggis, if you don't know, is like amoebas on fleas on rats. Vegetarian haggis is OODLES better, and not just because it doesn't involve cruelty. It flat out tastes better, probably because it's made of ingredients people are okay with talking about out loud. It's so much better, in fact, that the one actual Scottish person we met at Burns Baby Burns, the woman sitting next to me, ordered the vegetarian haggis even though she wasn't vegetarian! She said she just likes it more! Now that's a huge win. She still had some of the regular haggis from the communal bowl, but her main source of food was the veg one. Yay! Summary, vegetarian haggis is great, regular haggis is a Rhimes.
Also on the tables were communal pitchers of gravy. I mean. We've all seen gravy boats and that's cool. Have you ever seen a freaking drinks pitcher used for gravy? I thought it was wine. It was hilarious. Anyway the plain baked potato was kind of awful to eat plain so I asked a server if there was vegan gravy and she said the communal gravy was! Huzzah! It was also not delicious. I hope she was right.
Something I actually know the servers were wrong about was the existence of vegan dessert. Considering I paid the same price as the omnivores, I figured that there would be a vegan dessert option. Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whiskey, and honey, filled display tables at the back, and I asked the server guarding the table if there was a vegan dessert option. She said no! I was so mad! On principle! We paid the same price ffs! I asked another server if there was a vegan dessert. She said there was only what was out. Boo. Turns out, she wasn't wrong, she just had no idea what was out. The next day, the people behind Burns Baby Burns responded kindly to an angry dessert-less tweet I sent out, and assured me that one of the tables of cranachan was all vegan. That's super wonderful, it's just that none of the people they had working for them knew apparently. I'm really glad the problem was misinformed servers and not unfair lack of vegan dessert. I mean that doesn't put the weird ass oats and cream mixture in my stomach 5 days ago but it's still something!
All in all, it was pretty fun and something I recommend doing if you are in the UK, just so you experience Burns Night at some point. The food was fine, the entertainment fun. A main problem for me was the lack of bathrooms. Outdoor portapotties are fiiine, I guess, if you get non-disgusting ones. I was there very early and I imagine I was the first person to actually check out the bathrooms. They were already disgusting, even an hour before the event was called for. That's not cool. Another problem was that for how expensive the event was - 45 GDP - there was not one drink included. And the bar was insane expensive. Not even a soda included? Not cool. And of course we have the miscommunication between the people running things. Hopefully, these things can be sorted out for next year and it will be even better. And hooray for Robbie Burns, who actually wrote "Auld Lang Syne" but no one knows that because he also wrote about haggis.
*Correction: Neeps are apparently turnips. I don't know because a) they all taste exactly the same and b) they didn't give me any.