Proud Scots worldwide pause for drams and a hearty meal on the Jan. 25 birthday of Scotland’s favorite son, Robert Burns, and the Mount Vernon home of Gillian and Peter Quinn is no different. The couple has celebrated the famous poet and balladeer’s birthday stateside for the past 10 years, holding an annual party for some 40 friends and family. “It’s something that I’ve done ever since I was born,” says Gillian, a first generation Scot. “It’s a tradition I want to keep.”
Guests were asked to arrive with whiskey in hand, while Gillian provided her own Fettercairn Single Malt, a favorite brand brought back from visits to Scotland. Following the traditional Selkirk grace, guests dined on a classic Scottish meal of haggis— minced lamb liver, lungs and heart boiled in stomach casings— along with mashed potatoes and turnips, or “meeps and tatties.” For dessert, guests enjoyed rich Scottish Caledonian cream, heavy cream whipped with whiskey and orange rind, served with homemade oat cookies.
Friend Mark Blyth, who usually recites Burns’ poem “Ode to a Haggis” at the party, was unable to attend this year, but he provided a rousing recording of the poem that was played at the beginning of the meal. Following tradition, guests ceremoniously stabbed four haggises at the end of the third verse, “O what a glorious sight, warm-reeking, rich!”
The party ended early this year, at about 1:30 a.m. Says Gillian: “It usually depends on how long the whiskey lasts!” —Elizabeth Heenan
The Party Line
occasion: Robert Burns’ Birthday.
theme: All things Scottish.
venue: The Quinns’ Mount Vernon home.
decorations: The Royal Flag of Scotland and the Cross of Saint Andrew were hung on the walls; the table was set with scarves of Gillian’s Stewart family tartan.
guest list: An artistic gathering of 40 family and friends, including Sascha Wolhandler of Sascha’s 527, Gary Kachadourian and wife Jan, and members of Gillian and Peter’s band, Lowmoda.
special touch: Mark Blyth provided an equally devilish photo
of himself in a bloodied shirt and brandishing a knife to pass amongst the guests during his recording of “Ode to a Haggis.”
selected fare: Smoked salmon with dill sour cream, tapenade with roasted peppers, “meeps and tatties,” haggis, whiskey.