Friday, May 28, 2010

Hot Dry Sausage from Claudio


I cheated, once. It was Christmas of 2008, and I was spending it in a more Christian way than ever before; with a family of Catholics. Not that there was anything particularly Catholic about these Catholics. It was Christmas with the Hardys.

Joe Hardy is my old friend and, as some tabloids have suggested, my favorite. When we first met, I learned that he didn't like to be called anything other than 'Joe' by his friends and 'Joseph' by his elders, so naturally, I've called him 'Joey' for the past eight years.

Joey invited me to spend Christmas eve with his family, as I was to be trekking to my aunt's nearby the following day. My family has never been too big on Christmas, aside from it being an occasion for us to gather and irritate each other. Perhaps all other families in the world, including the Hardys, spent Christmas the same way. But there was a far more festive spirit in the air, and their varying gradations of British accents brought a sense of correctness to to the setting.

At the time, I lived right in Philadelphia's Italian Market. As a token of my regard for the Hardys and the ever-so-slight mutual loathing underlying the love that has kept me and Joey friends for so long, I decided to bring a token of my gratitude in the form of some hot dry sausage from Claudio. I felt it to be a fitting gift in that I would be unable to eat it, and so would have to ask them how it tasted, to which they would, bound by courtesy, tell me it was delicious. I would then spend my life obliviously believing that this tube of sodiumized animal meat tasted great, never knowing the true answer. This was my aim, but I thwarted it myself after a couple of drinks on that first night. In front of me sat a plate piled with slices of the links, and around me sat the Hardys, talking about most un-British things in their accents.

I was contemplating eating on of those little discs, hard. It went on for about ten minutes. I stared at it, sipping my drink, bending my eyebrows like hermetic kung fu master sizing up his newest pupil. Finally, I leaned forward and with an inward "Fuck it", I grabbed one and threw it into my mouth. This was immediately followed by my eyes darting around to make sure no one just notice the Muslim eating pork. It was, indeed the perfect crime, unless of course god was watching.

I forgot about this incident until just recently, when I was in Claudio buying olives and cheese. Along with a wedge of brie and some olives stuffed with almonds, mini jalapenos, gorgonzola, and anchovies (yes), I got a turd-looking sausage that I suddenly realized I'd purchased before.

Suddenly, there was an adventure more important than all the ones that came after it. The real first time I willingly ate pork; it had to be revisited. Arriving at home, I fixed myself a plate of cheese, olives, and...I couldn't do it. Not yet. I had to be in the perfect state of mind to recall everything I felt at the time. This was to be a jolt, and I had to prime myself for it. A day passed, then another, until the olives were gone and there was just a bit of cheese left. Finally, I was ready, and I fixed the originally intended plate, the only substitution mini dill pickles instead of olives. I threw a slice of sausage into my mouth.

Even though I'd cut off most of the rind, this thing was damn chewy, almost unpleasantly so. I wondered if this was the stuff meant to be cooked before eating. Alas, it was the same sausage I had had before. While the hot and savory curing was quite tasty, it didn't attempt to cover up the smoky taste, surprisingly similar to what I've tasted in some bacon. The flavor was disproportionately strong for the size of slice that I had eaten, and at first it was a shock to my taste buds. It only reminded me that the first time I had eaten this stuff, I was so focused on my stealth that I barely tasted it. I worked that slice over and went around the plate eating a slice of cheese and a little pickle. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the flavors. It was a bit too much saltiness happening at once, particularly with an entirely new type of saltiness thrown into the mix. As I ate more sausage slices, I began to get used to the flavor. The texture, on the other hand, gave my jaw a proper work out, and by the time I was done it felt like I chewed a whole pack of Bubblicious for four hours.

Sausage is a good snack along with other cheese shop staples, but I'm glad it wasn't my first coherent adventure. Prosciutto eased me into pork with its relative lack of offensive qualities. I might venture to try sausage from different stores, but again, eating pork at home in my realm of comfort isn't something I'm inclined to do any time soon.

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