Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mystery meat

I am a fan of sausage. Yes, I know all the arguments against it. Yes, I read The Jungle when I was in college too. No, I wouldn’t eat one off a cart outside Fenway. (Anymore. I have been known to.) But none of that changes the fact that I like it. I have, ever since my palate was deemed mature enough to eat the “sweet” sausage that my mother’s Italian butcher Carlo made himself, bursting with pork and liberally sprinkled with finocchie. (Every time my mother ate it, she said the same thing -- “If this is the sweet sausage, I don’t want to taste the hot!” – while fanning herself.) Since everyone knows all the planks of the anti-sausage platform, I offer two pro positions:

1. Sausage is idiosyncratic. And adaptable.
Well into adulthood, I pretty much only ate Carlo’s sausage, spurning anything on offer at the supermarket and sampling only the occasional barbecue or Fenway pushcart offering. Then I moved to England, where at first I despaired of finding anything even remotely resembling Italian sausage. Especially after my first encounter with Cumberland sausage. Not that it wasn’t good—it was—but “spicy” or even “flavorful” were not the first words that came to mind.

But I underestimated the English love of all things sausage-related—after all, they eat so much sausage and potato that it’s a national dish and even has its own nickname (“bangers and mash”). I also misjudged the adventurousness of their palates, as I discovered the day I stumbled upon the shop in Oxford’s Covered Market devoted entirely to sausage: at least a dozen different varieties, using a huge range of ethnic cuisines as inspiration, including a number which I had never thought about in connection with sausage (Thai?). They even had more than one kind of Italian sausage! I sampled several, and settled on the one I liked best for my own, Italianized version of bangers and mash. Several years of sausage happiness ensued. Then we moved to Australia.

The first dinner I cooked after our arrival here, before we had even moved into our apartment, was bangers and mash. The hunt for Australian Italian sausage was on. No worries: I’ve only been here a month, and I’ve already found three different varieties. And not only are they different from each other, none of them is particularly similar to their English or American cousins. I’m sure their composition is influenced by all sorts of things, and I have no idea how authentic any of them are (I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a sausage in Italy), but as long as they taste good and use a seasoning palate that is my version of soul food, I’m buying.

2. Sausage is good value for money.
I can already hear you saying, “Yes, but that’s because it's full of garbage!” but in my experience, if you get your sausage from a good butcher, it is actually mostly full of meat, and with no more fat than, say, your average hamburger. Ounce for ounce (or gram for gram in my case), sausage is a good buy if you are looking to stretch your food budget, and if you buy more highly seasoned and flavorful varieties, you may find yourself eating less than you anticipated, which is financially and calorically beneficial. The last batch I bought, from a butcher, cost me about AUD$12.00 for six sausages (that's about USD$8.00/GBP5.00; I’m not sure how much they weighed, but some of them were pretty hefty). I cooked it all for dinner that night—bangers and mash, Italian style, plus a green vegetable, for three of us. There was enough sausage left over to make:

1. a batch of zesty tomato sauce with ground sausage for another dinner later in the week;
2. sausage-and-cheese panini for DP and me for lunch both days of the weekend;
3. two lunches of leftover pasta and sauce for Miss B; and
4. one more sandwich, for just me this time.

Thirteen person-meals from six sausages—sounds good to me. And they tasted good too.


KJ said... Best Blogger Tips

This is a great post. I meant to comment earlier on this one. I could go on and on about my own devotion to sausage and how I've chased the sausage cart down Landsdowne Street more times than I'd ever admit. But what I really took away from this post was that you should be writing about food. Like all the time. There's definitely a unique perspective here: "The Intellectual Gourmet" or "Food for Thought"-- a sort of a hybrid of gastronomy and philosophy. Work it, own it. Great stuff.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

KJ, this comment made my day. I kid you not.

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