Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Porky Goodness, or the Pleasures of Dining Alone

I work from 12 midnight until 8am five days a week. I'm lucky- I live in Manhattan and a car from the Firm comes to pick me up each night and whoosh me off to work. Lunch time is at about 3am, when I open my beloved Nissan wide-mouth or one of my bento boxes and set up lunch. But by 8am, I'm kind of hungry, and it's dinnertime at Casa Carpenoctem.

Working at night has made food more important to me than at any other time in my life, save one (we'll get to that at a later date). It's what makes my nights bearable, and I often plan my meals on a weekly basis, while conforming my desires to the vagaries of the local Greenmarket.

There are times though when my 'breakfast' becomes even more important to me than my lunches. Usually when I come home from work I down some cereal and a glass of juice- caffeine ins a no-no, since I'm in bed by 2pm if possible. But this morning (last night to you) I kept thinking of a sausages that were in my fridge.

Understand this- I am not the world's biggest fan of red meat. I only eat hamburgers if they come from really good joints, and only when there's nothing else to eat on the menu or I'm suffering from a heme-induced craving. I actually have to feel anemic before beef looks good, and the only reason I don't use iron supplements is that I've found they don't make me feel healthy the way red meat does.

Lamb I like. I especially like lamb stew- once a year. I could care less if PETA hates me; I like veal, but I haven't had any in years. But pork and I have a love/hate thing that goes back to childhood. I may be one of the few people in the US who genuinely hates pork roast without having vegetarianism or religion as a reason. The thought of chitlins and hogmaws is enough to make me turn green. I turn up my nose at pork chops, stuffed or otherwise. I have scrapple in my freezer, mostly out of nostalgia. For the most part, I would rather eat ground glass than sausages. The only parts of the pig that I like are bacon (cut thick, smoked, and cooked until still somewhat limp), ham (only if my mother or I make it), and whatever on earth cuts are used in pulled pork sandwiches, roast pork buns and pork fried rice, at which point I become a fiend, but only temporarily.

Part of my dislike comes from having grown up in a mostly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood- I just don't dig the pig. And part of it comes from a horrifying childhood incident in which I found out that people cook pig feet not for the meat, but to eat all of the the fat, too. While I don't mind a ham hock in my greens, I only use it for seasoning. I just don't see it as food.

But last weekend my boyfriend was going to come into town. The BF is pure Celt. He is mostly Scots, with a lot of Irish mixed in, and he spent a few years in England as a kid. This is a man who loves his pig with a passion, and in his honor I went to Myers of Keswick and bought pork sausages.

Now Myers is a British-style grocery in the West Village, which is like saying roast goose is a nice piece of poultry. The family who own the shop are from the Motherland, and the owner's father was a butcher who came to New York to visit his son and started making sausages out of homesickness. While a lot of British food looks like a dog's dinner to my American eyes, there's one place where the Brits excel and that is with the humble sausage. The shop sells chipolatas (the much more tasty equivalent to the American breakfast sausage), Cumberland sausages (think mild Italian sausage, but more delicate), and pork and leek sausages that might possibly convert a vegetarian into an omnivore. I picked up a few of each and brought them home, only intending to eat one or two and feeding him the rest.

When I got home, the phone rang. The BF, who has been moving things in for a while now, had just gotten some great news- he had a job interview with the US government and another four in PA, and had to prep. He apologized profusely,and I was stuck with sausages that I don't eat.

I thought of freezing them, but sausages like this (some of which had literally been made while I was in the shop) were too fresh to ruin by freezing. I decided to make fried eggs and pork and leek sausages, with toast on the side. That was a mistake- I hoovered them.

This morning I kept thinking about the chipolatas, which are pink and delicate in their natural state. There were four of them- big deal. I cooked them this morning, again with two farm fresh fried eggs and toast. American sausages tend to shrivel when you cook them, but not these honeys. They just browned and got crispy on the outside, and were as fat as a female wrestler's fingers. I made tea and sat down to an almost proper English breakfast (all that was lacking was the broiled tomato)- and gobbled the whole thing down in about 6 minutes.

I tried to be genteel about the whole thing. I really did. I prepped my teapot and even covered it with The World's Ugliest Tea Cozy. I set the table and sat in a chair instead of eating over the sink. I sliced a photogenic slice of lemon and floated it in my Lapsang Souchong, and put music on in the background. But these sausages just kept calling to me- maybe it was because of the butter I had used to grease the pan, or the delicious eggs over easy that were snuggled up against them like sleeping babies in crocheted afghans. It was all I could do to actually use a knife and fork instead of sticking my face in the plate and licking it clean. I sat there, philosophically munching, and tried to tell myself how intelligent the average pig is compared to one of my students, and realized that most of my students would lose the contest. I mused on how slaughterhouses are evil places, even though I know Myers uses pigs that are raised on small farms. I thought about how I was probably going to go to Hell, and how my vegan acquaintances and old Orthodox neighbors would stand on the edge and laugh at me, as my soul fried like a piece of bacon in a pan at high heat.

And then I put another piece of sausage in my mouth and decided that I could hardly wait until Friday morning to fry up the Cumberlands.

Sometimes, happiness is mopping up sausage grease and egg yolk, and being secretly glad that your boyfriend is in another state where he can't see you stuff yourself like a barbarian at a Roman feast.

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