Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

The Ultimate Sausage?

Posted by middlerage on August 7, 2013

Middlerage is in an inventive mood, and his deep thoughts have turned to… sausage?

I was just thinking about how supposedly sausage is a peasant food, a cheap way to make use of fat and trimmings while the lords on the hill eat their spit-roasted fine cuts of meat. Send the good stuff to nobility. Add plenty of salt and spices to the leftover trash meat, and you got yourself a decent source of nutrition for the serfs. Now, economic analysis may not support that thesis – the work involved to chop and season the trimmings, to extract and prepare the casings, to stuff and smoke the result is probably so labor intensive as to make “peasant food” a debatable term. But for the moment, let’s go with it; sausage is a way to make use of cheap food that might otherwise be thrown away. So methinks, what other food has this kind of underlying philosophy?

Wings! I’m not going to go research this to prove my point, but I think I recall hearing a story along the lines of a bartender in upstate NY meets somebody trying to unload tons of super cheap chicken wings, and he has the bright idea to roast them in seasoning and salt (sound familiar?) and sell what cost him pennies a truckload for pennies a plate. Genius! It’s like the thirst-inducing bowl of free peanuts on every bar top, but you actually entice the patrons to pay for the “peanuts.”

Now I’m on a roll. Potato skins! One of the franchise restaurants has the notion to take the tastiest part of a baked potato – okay, the second tastiest part after the toppings – and after adding salt and seasonings (ahem) sell the cheap peelings as expensive appetizers. Now they even make it into a snack food you can buy in a vending machine (additional processing applies).

Finally, in my native NM, you can buy lovingly shredded bits of high quality meats wrapped in corn flour and called the tamale. Again, supposedly a peasant food, but the labor involved makes that assertion questionable. Anyway, I’ve heard (but again am not in a position to prove), that tamales started out as a way to make use of the brains, entrails and head meat of various animals. Add enough salt and seasonings and just like the sausage, you hide the nasty origins and make something palatable and nutritious.

Which leads me to my million dollar idea for sausage:

The potato-skin/tamale/chicken-wing sausage. $14.99/lb in your freezer section.

It’s either the ultimate sausage or just the wurst idea.

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4 Responses to “The Ultimate Sausage?”

  1. Annie said

    Ever notice how a lot of “regional specialties” also seem to make use of the other unwanted bits? In my imagination, a community would share around recipes for the nicer parts of the animal, but nobody from further away really wanted the recipes for the interestingly anatomical parts. Plus you have to work harder to make those parts appetizing, so people would have kept tinkering locally with those recipes to make them more tolerable, and then they would have been passed down through the generations as The Only Thing We Know To Make Organs Delicious And Unrecognizable. Voila, enter haggis, scrapple (hello central PA!), brains and eggs, etc.

  2. Dahveed said

    One observation about the economics. I think it still works out, even factoring in the labor costs because the labor was a fixed cost (you had to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for your wife regardless or whether she cooked good food or bad) so she just as well do it and not erode family income by consuming the more choice bits.

    It’s a digression but talking about peasant food reminds me of a pod cast I listened to recently regarding the Irish potato famine. Apparently, one contributing factor to the problem was that it wasn’t economically viable for farmers to grow alternate crops for their own consumption. The other crops that wouldn’t be affected by blight were too profitable, and their yield was too small, to make it viable to eat them rather than sell them. Potatoes are wonderful peasant food because the yield is so high. Where a small plot of potatoes might feed a family for a year, other crops might require a farmer’s entire land allotment to do the same, which meant that he couldn’t sell anything. Money was crucial because most of the farmers weren’t land owners; they were closer to sharecroppers and had to pay rent for use of the land. So they basically had a choice: eat other crops and loose their livelihood because there wouldn’t be enough income to pay for the land; or attempt to grow potatoes for subsistence and potentially starve.

    • middlerage said

      Hmmm, well that’s an important point about the fixed cost of labor. Suggests there is a good reason to post-process the yucky bits into sausage. Yay for peasant wives!

      I have a vague recollection of hearing that Irish landowners (or maybe evil English landowners) sat on heaps of wheat earmarked for export while the masses starved.

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