What's the best scene in Apocalypto, Mel Gibson's latest gore fest? It would have to be the one atop the ziggurat, in which the Mayan priest plucks the still-beating heart from the broken chest of not one, but two of Jaguar Paw's fellow captives.
As a filmmaker, Gibson knows a thing or two about organs. After all, Braveheart's William Wallace, a Scotsman down to his kilt-covered skivvies, must've grown strong eating whole stomachfuls of thirteenth-century haggis.
Made by stuffing sheep lungs, heart and liver (along with a bit of oatmeal and onions) into the animal's sutured stomach and then boiling the offal balloon, haggis is one of those unfortunate dishes that can ruin a nation's reputation. Maybe that's why the Scots are so quick to subject the dish to culinary indignities like haggis hurling and haggis juggling.
But given his proclivities for seeing bodies tortured be it Wallace on the rack, Christ on the cross or Jaguar Paw watching his father's throat slit you'd think a guy like Gibson wakes up to a bowl of haggis every morning. But Gibson's violence, like a lot of store-bought haggis, is canned.
Don't get me wrong: If you like watching bodies get cut, whipped, shot, broken and bruised, Gibson's oeuvre is fun to watch. (And there's no little thrill in seeing an ingrate like Colonel Tavington get his just deserts at the end of The Patriot.)
Still, you walk out of a Gibson film feeling like you've already seen it before. And in a sense, you have. Instead of aiming for historical accuracy, Gibson's mark is always the underdog's victory over the oppressor. He may expend miles of film choreographing a battle scene or pensively lingering on the welts delivered by a centurion's whip, but these artfully rendered moments of human suffering are really just ornaments adorning an otherwise traditional plot line that pits a big evil empire against a noble pipsqueak.
With that in mind, I'm not so sure Gibson would take his coffee with a bowl of haggis. He'd be much more likely to tuck into a bowl of Stahly Quality Foods Vegetarian Haggis.
Made from rutabaga, kidney beans, lentils, onions mushrooms and nuts, Stahly Quality Foods Vegetarian Haggis has the original's lumpy, brown and mealy consistency down pat. How does it taste? A lot like haggis.
That is to say: Not very good.
Something else is wrong with this can of Stahly Quality Foods Vegetarian Haggis. The side of the can reassures potential purchasers that it contains "vegetarian skinless haggis made with the finest ingredients." What was that? Skinless? What skin are we talking about? Onion skin?
What's worse, the other side of the can informs us that this vegetarian haggis packs all the fatty punch of its offal ancestor. A mere half-cup packs a walloping 25 grams of fat that's 38 percent of the RDA. Put another way, for every 280 calories of Stahly Quality Foods Vegetarian Haggis, 220 of those calories come from fat.
So a can of vegetarian haggis has the look, taste and deleterious health effects of a true spot of haggis, but, like a Mel Gibson movie, you step away from the table feeling like you've had something other than the real thing.