Gung Haggis Fat Choy taste-testing rehearsal a success at Floata!

Everybody said the food was really good! 

Poet George McWhirter was amazed. Media columnist Catherine Barr was in awe! Film maker Ann Marie Fleming had smiles on her face! Blackthorn flautist Michelle Carlisle loved it!

We went to Floata to test-taste the 2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy menu.  We started with a deep-fried haggis/shrimp wun tun, shrimp-filled haw-gow, haggis/pork su-mei, and vegetarian spring rolls… that was our appetizer.

Sukhi Ghuman arrived with her cameraman Zak to shoot an interview and help taste-test some food for an upcoming episode of The Express on Shaw TV.  “The Express is a lifestyle magazine program that brings you an in-depth look at the fascinating
people, events, recreation and attractions from Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.”  Sukhi asked me about the origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and how I came to create this cultural fusion event that blends Chinese and Scottish traditions.

“It's bringing about recognizing the pioneer histories of the Scottish-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians of BC, while recognizing that despite the racism of history, these peoples have met, dated, fallen in love and produced babies.  It's also about overcoming the racism of the head tax, the discrimination, and recognizing the future of Canada when people are Eurasian or Hapa-Canadian.  This is our world now.  This is our Canada… and it involves being inclusive of our different and diverse cultural heritages.”

We sat down at the table with our 10 guests including George and Angela McWhirter – Vancouver Poet Laureate, Charlie Cho – our stage manager, Catherine Barr – media columnist, Leanne Riding – ACWW co-president and Gung Haggis dragon boat paddler, Carl Schmidt – our sound tech, Ann Marie Fleming – film maker, Michelle Carlisle and her son – Blackthorn flute player, and Deb Martin – my girlfriend and veteran of 5 Gung Haggis dinners, the Gung Haggis CBC TV special, and 5 years of the Gung Haggis dragon boat team.

The Hot & Sour soup came next.  Sukhi is vegetarian, so I pointed out that the vegetarian spring rolls are tasty, and if she eats fish – then the shrimp-filled haw-gow dumplings are one of my favorite dim sum foods.  Buddhists feast is another of our tasty vegetarian dishes and is a traditional Chinese New Year dish.

“Haggis really is offal stuff,” to the laughter of the Scots-Canadians at our table, as I explained what haggis is made of.  “It's made from the organs of a sheep – the heart, liver and mixed with oatmeal. You have to remember that a lot of the Scottish crofters were poor after battle of Culloden and the Scottish uprisings against the English.  The oatmeal helped the sheep go farther on the dinner table.  It's not unlike a lot of Chinese food, where you use every bit of everything. I have eaten trip – sheep's stomach lining… and ox tail in Chinese cooking.  So when the Chinese people don't eat up the haggis at our dinner, it's because of the oatmeal,” I said to much laughter.

Catherine Barr, who says she is first generation Scottish-Canadian because her parents literally came off the boat many years ago, reminded us that hot dogs are much worse than haggis because they are made from pork renderings…. the ears and other parts of the animal. 

We trust Catherine to know these things, because she grew up very steeped in Scottish culture.  I first got to know about her, because her father was the president of the Burns Club of Vancouver back in 2003.  My friendship with William Barr grew, and he invited me to Burns Club meetings, and I invited him to our Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night, and he invited me to Burns Club Robbie Burns dinners based on the Tarbolton Bachelor Club.  Catherine is going to introduce us to a Burns Supper tradition we have been remiss in replicating – the Toast to the Lassies.  Throughout our taste-testing dinner, she got to know the history of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and how it pokes fun at Scots-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians, while celebrating its traditions, achievements and peoples.  She knows we can be wacky, quirky, reverent, irrelevant, and full of fun.  Catherine is going to plan something special for us.

Soon the haggis arrived, and Zak the cameraman made the waiter bring it to the table a couple of times, so he could get some great shots.  I picked up a lettuce leaf, slathered it with hoi-sin bbq plum sauce, added some haggis, then some lettuce wrap filling of diced vegetables and crunchy noodles…. folded the lettuce over… bit into it… and mugged for the camera… I had to repeat for a different angle.

We also ate Mongolian Beef, Shrimp balls, and e-fu long life noodles.  All of the food was very very tasty.  Michelle Carlisle and I brought out her flute and my accordion, and we improvised a duet of Loch Lomand, and Auld Lang Syne for the camera.  Sukhi also did a short interview with Michelle, about her involvement with Gung Haggis Fat Choy and her band Blackthorn. 

One of the highlights of the evening was a poem George McWhirter read for us.  He especially wrote a poem embracing Scottish and Chinese cultures, and about our Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.  I can't tell you anything more… but he really pokes fun at Scottish, Irish, Chinese and Canadian customs… and he snuck my name into it!!!

George and his wife Angela really LOVED our Gung Haggis Fat Choy taste-testing dinner… and are amazed that there are going to be up towards 400 people attending!

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