Imagine: Eating Haggis with Justin Bieber
Last night, my life changed, and it was all because of haggis.
The haggis is a underrated foodstuff. It is not Instagrammable. It is not on-trend. It is not photogenic, though it is one of the few foods that actually looks better when it’s been deep-fried. I should know: I spend a lot of my time staring at haggis.
I prefer the weekends, generally, even though they’re busier. The time goes quicker when you’re serving people, obviously, but it’s nice to have a bit of patter going with the customers. Generally the weeknight punters are too knackered to cook after work, and too knackered to have a chat while they wait, or they’re the hardcore drinking squad and aren’t much use in a conversation. You can’t discuss current affairs or I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here with someone who‘s trying to see how loudly they can sing a Biffy Clyro tune in an enclosed space without starting a fight. On Saturday or Sunday night though, folk are generally a bit merrier, a bit more pleased to see you. You know they say that it’s better to give than to receive? I reckon it’s like that. I give them haddock, chips and a can of Irn Bru, and they give me companionship and a crumpled fiver.
Back to the matter at hand: haggis. I’ve worked here for years and I’ve never seen anyone actually come in with the intention of eating a haggis. Sure, you get tourists ordering them for the novelty or for a drunk dare but it’s usually a spontaneous idea for them, and I’ve seen several discarded in the street, the fun wearing off after a few bites. But someone marching in and straight-up asking for one? Never. It’s a pity – the national dish, reduced to a mushy joke.
But last night? Last night, Justin Bieber changed everything. Picture the scene: I’m at the counter, it’s a standard Saturday night in the Lagoon. There’ve been more younger customers than normal, mainly teenage girls – I think there was a show on at the Hydro. I’d prefer punters with a bit of patter, someone to chat with instead of just watching the Uptown Funk video again on VH1 (Grandpa insists we have it on, says the customers like it when a chippy has a party feel to it. I’d prefer BBC4), but teenagers are always hungry and most of them go for big portions of chips. And then, right when I was settling into the post-2am lull, a tall Freddie Mercury-looking guy wanders in wearing an ‘I love Scotland’ sweatshirt and a confused face. He scans the room briefly, looks back, and in walks Justin Bieber.
He sorts of bounces around the room a bit, as if he’s had too much sugar – it takes him a minute or two to adjust, focus on the menu, and start asking me about things. “What’s this!?” he says, pointing to a battered cod. “That’s battered cod,” I say. He looks at the guy in the saltire jumper, who is staring through the hot glass as if to threaten the fish inside. “Maybe I’ll pass on that,” he says, before bobbing back to me. “Actually! Actually there is something I wanted to try. Do you have… haggis?” says Justin Bieber.
“Aye,” I say, shovelling chips into a polystyrene tub. “Any sauces?” Justin Bieber declines the ketchup, and for a moment, as I place the deep-fried ovoid of sheep lung, heart and liver mixed with oatmeal, suet, onion and spices, our eyes meet. I knew then that this was no drunken port of call, but the culmination of a worldwide quest for the culinary Holy Grail. “What are you doing in Glasgow then?” I ask, trying to get a bit of banter with the lad. “I’m here on the purpose tour,” he says. “We go all over – Tokyo, Madrid… Birmingham. I’ve been looking forward to the Scotland leg, it’s my first time here!” His minder rolls his eyes, but Justin Bieber ignores it. “It’s called the Purpose tour, but nobody knows is that the purpose of the tour is to get haggis,” he says, quietly. I hand the tub over the counter to him. “I’ve been waiting for this moment! You can’t get this stuff in the States,” he says, ripping open the package and stuffing a fistful of chips into his mouth. His minder elbows him, and Justin Bieber looks up at me again. “Oh yeah, how much do I owe you?” he says through a mouthful.
I panicked. It had been a momentous five minutes. The arrival of Justin Bieber in my chip shop – and the discovery that like me, he was a genuine seeker of haggis – had rocked me to my core. Justin reached into his pocket and gave me a twenty. “Keep the change, I’m not sure I can use this anywhere else!” he says, tucking into his food. I leave him alone at the counter with his haggis; to give the dish, and the lad, the respect he sought. When I returned from the stock cupboard, he was gone.by