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Butte library cooks up Scottish feast to raise funds and celebrate 18th-century poet Robert Burns

Butte library celebrates the Scots
Posted at 6:30 PM, Jan 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 20:30:08-05

BUTTE — It takes several hours to make hundreds of servings of what librarian and former chef Shari Curtis calls an Americanized version of haggis. The Scottish dish is traditionally cooked in the stomach of a sheep—but in Butte, Montana, sheep stomachs and brains are hard to find.

Curtis was working away in the library's kitchen in preparation for Burns Night, the celebration of Robert Burns, a famous 18th-century Scottish poet who is recognized worldwide.

As she cooks, Curtis offers up fun facts: there are more statues dedicated to Robert Burns than anyone else and while the Scottish follow suit with the Irish and English in feast nights for Saints, the celebration of the Scottish poet is as big a deal as their feast for St. Andrew.

"The English have St. George, the Welsh have St.David, Irish have St. Patrick, and so the Scots, not to be outdone, they have both St. Andrew in November and they have Burns Night in January," says Curtis.

Curtis says aside from being a fun evening of literature and history, hosting a Burns Night celebration as a fundraiser appealed to her because it came to her attention while reading a novel by a famous Montana author that was set in Butte.

"I read this book by Ivan Doig. He wrote two books that were based in Butte. One was “Work Song” and one was “Sweet Thunder” and in “Sweet Thunder” the library has a Burns Night. And I’m like, that’s it! That’s what we’re going to do for our fundraiser," says Curtis.

She says a typical Burns Night celebration includes the Scottish delicacy of haggis because the famed poet wrote a poem about the food and other items that will be served, including Scottish soups filled with meat and potatoes and deserts soaked in Scotch with cream and fruit.

"Meat and potatoes and scotch, and custards and creams and sweet pound cake," says Curtis.

Simple and delightful.

"I know. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?"

The third annual event also features a talk by local historian Richard Gibson and a chance to bid on silent auction items from local artists and boutiques.

The money raised will go towards improvements at the community garden including a new fence and some of the funds raised will go towards fixing the water damage from pipes that burst in the recent January cold snap.

Curtis emphasizes that no books were damaged by the broken pipes.

"Our largest fundraiser was $3,000, so I guess I’m looking to beat that but I just hope people come and have a good time and eat some food. This is a community event just as much as it is a fundraiser," says Curtis.