Saturday, 5 December 2009

S ave O ur S ausage

The French used to complain that Britain had twenty religions and one sauce. The reason the French had so many sauces was that their meat was never fresh. The food in France was so bad in the 16th century, and the likelihood of being poisoned, either deliberately or by accident, so high that Marie de Medici brought her own cooks from Florence when she went to France to marry Henry II. It was those pioneering Italian cooks who laid the foundation of French high cuisine. In cuisine, as in most things, I am chauvinist to a degree. I am devoted to the English sausage. Either when joined in a tasty trinity with egg and chips or in a nest of mash and cabbage. lapped by a small sea of white wine and suitably seasoned. On sausages I speak with the authority of the ages.
The Skidmore Sausage is obtainable in the Cotswold village of Sherston, made according to a recipe unchanged since 1660. Not always by the hand of a Skidmore born, it is true. But always by a Skidmore named. It being the pleasant custom of whoever takes over the shop as the generations float by to change his name to Skidmore.
I cannot find it in my heart to blame them. The specials board at a restaurant on Phila Street, SARTOGA, offers a whopping “Skiddie” - three pancakes, three eggs, bacon or ham or sausage, home fries, and toast - at $11.95. It is nice to think that my devotion to the sausage is celebrated worldwide.
Somewhere I hope a black pudding bears my name. In a perfect world there would be a black pudding on every breakfast table - or a Dracula Butty, as I have heard it unkindly called. Begin the day with a black pudding and you will be a stranger to the shiver. Summon up its sinew, let loose its blood of wrath, preferably with a back-up of fried bread, egg, sausage and bacon, and carrying riot shields of hot buttered toast, and you are as ten men. Every man-jack of them a 'flu-disperser, buttressed against the winter's blast.
You may judge from the foregoing my reaction to the infamous suggestion that we should cut a sausage a day from the average British diet. It is necessary to save the planet, scientists claim. The scientists called for a 30 per cent reduction in the number of farm animals bred for meat to prevent rising temperatures and rising sea levels. The average meat intake in men is 970g a week and in women 550g a week. A 30 per cent reduction in men's meat intake is equivalent to seven 40g sausages, two 130g chicken breasts, four 70g lamb chops or 12 bacon rashers of 25g. In my view that is a price too high merely to save a planet.
Their controversial report, which partly blames meat-eaters for climate change, was backed by Environment Secretary and vegetarian Hilary Benn's department.

Professor Ian Crute, chief scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board which advises the meat industry, will have none of it. He wisely points out: “A large fall in meat eating or turning vegetarian is not the solution to climate change - it would make only a marginal difference to greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge is to produce meat more sustainable.”
Foreign sausages have their sinister side, as you might expect. In 1997 German police arrested a man on suspicion of murdering a woman with a sausage.
They said she had choked on a Bockwurst, a popular large German sausage. The prosecutors said the man had given a patchy account of events, acknowledging that he may have "administered" a Bockwurst to the woman.

Adolph Louis Luetgert was a German immigrant who owned a Sausage & Packing Company in Chicago. In May 1897 his second wife disappeared. Luetgert said she had deserted him for a secret lover. The police began nosing around the sausage plant. The theory was that the missing Mrs Luetgert had been cooked down to something as easily disposed of as sausage meat. A strange odour emanating from one of the vats in the factory it was drained.The police found unidentifiable bones and a gold wedding ring. They also found bills for the arsenic and potash Luetgert had bought the day before his wife disappeared. Potash, when boiled with water, can do a thorough job on the human body. “I was working on a secret formula to develop a new soap,” Luetgert explained. And soap with a potash base would certainly remove dirt - but skin too. And maybe that was precisely what had happened.
Adolph Luetgert missed melting in the electric chair but he got life in Joliet Prison, where he babbled incoherently to the guards. Though he still insisted he was innocent of her murder, his dead wife was haunting him and seeking her revenge, he said. Meanwhile, the Murder in the Sausage Factory led to false rumours that Luetgert had turned his wife into sausages that were sold to an unsuspecting public.

None of that puts me off sausages but one obsession I am going to have to cure is reading the Daily Mail online when I wake at 4 am. On Tuesday the paper contained the following headlines:
“Businesswoman's Crusader Accused of Bullying Female Workers”, “Sacked for Fighting, the Expert in handling aggressive Children”, “Tiny Yorkshire Terrier Gets ASBO for Upsetting Postman”, “Hacker Arrested for Stealing Players' Virtual Identities in Online Computer Games”.
“Islamists Pelt Muslim Peer with Eggs”, “Head of State Funded Family and Parent Institute Says Day of Typical Family is Over”, “Children's Secretary Ed Balls (so aptly named, one always feels) says 'Marriage Is Not The Key of a Happy Family'”, “Swiss Ban Minarets”.
It was then that it finally hit me. Combine those aberrations with the corruption in the judiciary, parliament, top echelons of the forces, local government, the City and almost any institution; the unnecessary wars, the feral young, the shabby art world, the unmusical music. None of it is new. I have just been reading Robert Harris's fine novel “Lustrum” and the same thing happened in Rome, as it did in Egypt, the Venetian Empire, Greece and any of the more ancient civilisations. Gore Vidal's “Creation” illuminates the strange truth of an explosion of creativity in the 5th century BC, so soon to be mired. My chum the Earl of Norwich wrote the only rival to Gibbon, a three volume history of Byzantium which is both scholarly and wildly amusing . When the work was re-published as a single volume John Julius, reputed the most intelligent man in London, a sort of thinking man's Stephen Fry , publicly advised people not to buy it because the publishers had ” taken all the jokes out”.( Every year John Julius sends his friends a booklet "Christmas Crackers" a collection of poems, prose and eccentricities. It has just arrives so Xmas has begun.)
I ponder the sad truth that in the last days of Empires monsters rise. In Rome, it was Caesar; in Russia, Ivan the Terrible; in Italy, Mussolini; in France, Napoleon; and in Germany, Hitler. With us, it is the most terrible banshee of them all, Lord Meddlesome.
Thoughts like that kept me gloomily awake until the tea arrived.
Footnote: Odd paper, the Daily Mail. On Thursday the Mail headline screamed: “Oldest Cookbook in the World Found” over a story of how experts at John Rylands Library had discovered the cook book used by Richard II's chef, “The Forme of Cury”, and were busily deciphering the recipes. They should done what I did. Buy a copy of the paperback from Amazon.
I warn them not to try the recipes. I made a banquet from them for my friend John Charteris, a Times reporter and adjutant of the Duke of Lancaster's Yeomanry, my maternal family's regiment. It was virtually uneatable.

A new to me word game from Blog reader Judith Elliott called Tom Swifties. As in:

'I swear by Viagra,' Tom said forthcomingly.

'Oxford murders are solved by Lewis nowadays,' Tom said remorselessly.

'I've paid back the money for the duck house,' he exclaimed.

'You just can't get the staff these days,' she said helplessly.

'We're a republic nowadays,' he sighed achingly.

'Theseus has killed the Minotaur!' the messenger said amazingly.

"I'm a Black and Decker man myself,' Tom said boringly.

All these by her husband Don.

We decided to play it ourselves over lunch in our favourite Italian restaurant in Peterborough, Fratelli's. Here's a selection:

“I love the sound of church bells,” said Tom appealingly.

“People in glass houses should be more careful,” said Tom stonily.

“I believe in God,” said Tom trustingly.

“That's a sad symphony,” said Tom pathetically.

“I think my name is Thomas,” said Tom doubtingly.

“Ouch!” said Tom painfully.

“A glass of milk,” said Tom shakily.

But, beware, it's habit forming. My bifstek romana was distinctly chilly when I got round to it. And my favourite (“You're not hanging me up there,” said Jesus crossly.) was disallowed on grounds of blasphemy and being contrary to the rules.

1 comment:

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