“So, I understand you are a fan of tubular meats.”
I kid you, not. These are the first words that my wife’s stepfather said to me. The way that his lips curled up only slightly, to show the happiness he felt saying this, almost made me laugh. I wouldn’t understand for a while just how close our passion for sausage was.
I know that passion is a very odd word to use when describing a ground-meat product that many people view as garbage. It is true that some sausage is just that, garbage. But, sometimes it can be damn near transcendent. I know that you are thinking, that it is not simply a sausage. It is a saucisson sec, or an artisan-dried salami, or perfectly smoked kielbasa that I am speaking of. What the hell do you think those are?
Sausage is a food that was born out of necessity and perfected out of pride and the simple understanding of flavor. A food meant to preserve and use up the otherwise unusable bits. Handed down for generations, these recipes soon became an art and as much a part of the family as the newest born child. Sure some sausages have been dumbed down due to mass production in factories, but even those sausages came from somewhere much bigger and more important.
Sausage is art and science sharing a passionate kiss under the moon of salt and fat. The understanding of flavor compliments and ratios is something that can only be perfected over time through trial and error, commitment, and love of the craft. The first time that your family sees that you can make a better summer sausage than the local butcher is a feeling of triumph and probably as close as I will ever come to throwing a touchdown at Ford Field or scoring the game winner at the Joe. The balancing act performed by lean meat, flavors, and fat is one that is amazing when perfected.
Sausage is a way to remember a successful family hunt. Sausage is a tradition in many holidays. A sausage on the grill is summertime. A sausage on a bun is American sports.
Sausage has been involved in some of my favorite memories. I remember traveling out of our way with Grandpa Mistak for “the” sausage. I remember carrying a bowling bag of fresh Polish sausage onto a plane with my father when Grandpa wasn’t happy with the “crap” he was finding down by his Winter getaway. I remember Grandpa Sawicki being very specific with the waitress to make sure she understood if he wanted patties or links that particular time. I remember perfecting a rosemary elk sausage with my mentor and friend, Chef Gary Kucy as I attempted to prove myself.
So, yes when Tom said, “So, I understand you are a fan of tubular meats,” I almost laughed. Tom didn’t even know the half of it.
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