And I’m sorry about the pun, but how could I NOT???
Tomorrow night (well, today really, in a mere 13 hours from now, technically speaking and you KNOW how I like to speak all technicalacious-like) I will be attending perhaps the most iconic social event in my multicultural, multilingual, multicuisinal city:
Gung Haggis Fat Choy
Given what a pain in the ass it is to get any two or greater number of Vancouverites (and a larger number is not necessarily greater, is it, I mean, if you’ve tried to organize a dinner then you know by now, for lo, you are very smart, that a larger number is in fact a greater pain in the ass, if anything, but where was I?) to agree on where to go for dinner, you’ll know that this one event is the only occasion on which it is even conceivable that if you have 400 friends, they can all just finally STFU and chow down. Yes, even vegetarians. As for raw vegans, pass them a potted Lucky Bamboo plant and tell them to knock themselves out.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy is an event I’ve been trying to attend since its very first iteration, now lost to the mists of time. Ancient rituals, newly fused; the love child of Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year, Gung Haggis Fat Choy is also the brainchild of one Toddish McWong (pictured), a legendary, indeed, possibly imaginary figure, who brings together the most entertaining or simply most gluttonous representatives of all Hyphenated-Canada for a ten course Chinese/Scots fusion dinner featuring free Scotch.
Let me say that again: Free Scotch.
That got your attention, didn’t it?
And this is what it looks like:
and yes, that is a tabla. And a rap, delivered to the haggis.
And here is last year’s address to the haggis, featuring entirely too enthusiastic knife-wielding by Vangroover mayor Gregor Robertson.
From the Gung Haggis Fat Choy site:
The doors will open at 5:00 pm, All tables are reserved, and all seating is placed in the order that they were ordered.
If you bought your tickets through Firehall Arts Centre, come to the reception marked Will Call under the corresponding alphabet letters.
We have placed you at tables in order of your purchase. Somebody who bought their ticket in December will be at a table closer to the stage then somebody who bought it on the day before the event. We think this is fair. If you want to sit close for next year – buy your ticket early.
The Bar is open at 5:00 and Dinner Start time is 6:00
We expect a rush before the posted 6:00pm dinner time. We have asked that the 1st appetizer platter be placed on the table soon after 6pm. Once this is done, we will start the Piping in of our performers and head table. We sing O Canada from the stage, and give welcome to our guests. Warning: We usually ask you to sing for your supper.
Buy Your Raffle Tickets:
Please buy raffle tickets… this is how we generate our fundraising. We purposely keep our admission costs low to $60 for so that they are affordable and the dinner can be attended by more people. Children’s tickets are subsidized so that we can include them in the audience and be an inclusive family for the evening. We have some great door and raffle prizes lined up. Lots of books (being the writers we are), gift certificates and theatre tickets + other surprises.
FREE Subscription for Ricepaper Magazine:
Everybody is eligible for a subscription to RicePaper Magazine, (except children). This is our thank you gift to you for attending our dinner. And to add value ($20) to your ticket. Pretty good deal, eh? Rice Paper Magazine is Canada’s best journal about Asian Canadian arts and culture, published by Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop.
This dinner is the primary fundraising event for:The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat teamcontinues to promote multiculturalism through dragon boat paddling events. Some paddlers wear kilts, and we have been filmed for German, French, and Canadian television documentaries + other
Since 2001, Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, has been a partner in this remarkable dinner event. ACWW works actively to give a voice to ermerging writers. ACWW is the publisher of RicePaper Magazine.
Histoic Joy Kogawa House committee joined our family of recipients in 2006, during the campaign to save Joy Kogawa’s childhood home from demolition. The Land Conservancy of BC stepped in to fundraise in 2005 and purchase Kogawa House in 2006 and turn it into a National literary landmark and treasure for all Canadians. In 2009, we celebrated our inaugural Writer-in-Residence program.
This year haggis dim sum appetizers will again be served. Haggis is mixed into the Pork Siu-mei dumplings Last year we introduced haggis pork dumplings (su-mei). This year we are adding vegetarian pan-fried turnip cake to represent “Neeps and Tatties.”
Soon after 6:00 pm the dinner formalities begin. People are seated, and the Piping in of the musicians and hosts begins. We will lead a singalong of Scotland the Brave and give a good welcome to our guests, and have the calling of the clans – all the reserved tables and large parties of 10. This is a tradition at many Scottish ceilidhs (kay-lees), or gatherings.
From then on… a new dish will appear every 15 minutes - quickly followed by one of our co-hosts introducing a poet or musical performer. Serving 40 tables within 5 minutes, might not work completely, so please be patient. We will encourage our guests and especially the waiters to be quiet while the performers are on stage. Then for the 5 minute intermissions, everybody can talk and make noise before they have to be quiet for the performers again.
Expect the unexpected: This year’s dinner event is full of surprises. Even I don’t know what is going to happen. The idea is to recreate the spontaneity of the very first dinner for 16 people back in 1998 – but with 400 guests. For that dinner, each guest was asked to bring a song or a poem to share. I don’t want to give anything away right now as I prefer the evening to unfold with a sense of surprise and wonderment. But let it be known that we have an incredible array of talent for the evening.
Todd Wong and Tricia Collins will be the hosts for the evening.
Todd Wong is the creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy. A 5th Generation Chinese Canadian who played Robbie Burns in the Battle of the Bards for 2008 Celtic Fest.
Tricia Collins is a actor, writer and playwright. Recently, her one woman play Gravity performed to rave reviews in Vancouver, Montreal and Guyana – home of her ancestors. Tricia happily brings her Irish-Chinese-Guyanese-Canadian heritage to Gung Haggis Fat Choy!
Joe McDonald We always delight in having Joe and his bagpipes. Joe has been with us since 2001 and even performed in the 2004 Gung Haggis Fat Choy CBC tv special. Joe is a multi-instrumentalist and can perform Chinese tunes on his bamboo flute or his bagpipes.
Birds of Paradox is the new group by erhu virtuoso Lan Tung, Ron Samworth on guitar and Nealamjit Dhillon on tabla drums and saxophone. Lan is also the leader of the group Orchid Ensemble.
Larissa Lai is our featured author, author of her new poetry work Automaton Biographies, Her novels are When Fox is A Thousand and Salt Fish Girl. Larissa also teaches Burns’ work at UBC English Department.
Marcus Youssef and Camyar Chai are the authors of Ali & Ali and the Axis of Evil. This has become a favorite for many Vancouverites, as the play pokes fun at Asian Heritage Month, Multiculturalism and Scottish history. Charles Demers performs with them.
Poetry by Robbie Burns and Chinese Canadian poets. What will it be? We often like to read “Recipe for Tea” – a poem by Jim Wong-Chu, about the trading of tea from Southern China to Scotland. Our non-traditional reading of the “Address to the Haggis” is always a crowd pleaser. But this year, audience members might also be reading a different Burns poem to tie their tongues around the gaelic tinged words. Will it be “A Man’s A Man for All That,” “To a Mouse,” My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose,” or maybe even “Tam O-Shanter?”
The evening will wrap up somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 pm, with the singing of Auld Lang Syne – with a verse in Mandarin Chinese. Then we will socialize further until 10pm. People will leave with smiles on their faces and say to each other, “Very Canadian,” “Only in Vancouver could something like this happen,” or “I’m telling my friends.”
And yes, there are apparently still a few tickets available. You will need to call Todd directly at 778-846-7090 as things are close to filling up and there’s no sense getting all dolled up only to be turned away.
By the way, fun trivia fact: It’s the Year of the Tiger and Robbie Burns was born in the Year of the Tiger. Animal print does not generally mix well with tartan, but hell, why not? Go for it; after one or two drinks it’ll look better, I’m sure.