The truth is in the sausage.

I’m one of those people who thinks that a good sausage is better than a good steak. If I’m at a restaurant and there is an interesting sounding sausage on offer, I’ll order it in preference to just about anything else. About a  month ago I went with my wife and her parents to a Greek restaurant call Il Greco and had a great meal.

The name Il Greco means “The Greek” in Italian.

What! And why?

At first I thought it was a reference to El Greco the painter and we’d be eating Spanish food, but then I realised that “il” was Italian for “the”, and if it was a Greek restaurant it should’ve been named something like “O Hellene” (Ο Έλληνας). It turns out that restaurant is owned by a Greek guy with an Italian wife and he told us that she would’ve killed him if he hadn’t put something Italian in the name. To me, it’s further proof of how much more there is in everything that is written; if we take the time to think about it. Luckily for me, my wife and her parents are the kind of people who are engaged by trying to make sense of the world around them and the sign provided us with some entertainment as we tried to figure out the story behind the choice of words and language.

Here in Australia there once lived a famous old bush walker called Paddy Pallin and he once wrote something along the lines of, “that if you know the name of a few trees, the bush is no longer just bush”. I’ve always taken that to mean, that the more one knows about the world, the more one gets out of it.

Enough of that thinking stuff and back to the more important matter of sausages!

As part of my meal at Il Greco I had an entree of some fabulous Greek sausages called, “loukaniko”. The loukaniko we had were Cyprian and were made with beef, pork, leeks and chilli. They were so delicious that I asked the owner of the restaurant if he made them himself . His answer was that he buys them from a Greek butcher and he even told me where to get them. Usually when one asks about where a business gets their supplies, one is usually told politely to, “go forth and multiply with oneself”.

Last Friday night, I invited a bunch of friends over for a bit of a “sausage fest”.

Most Australians of Anglo-Saxon decent will willingly to admit that the traditional Aussie “snag” (sausage) is crime against nature. The Aussie snag is based on the English sausage that isn’t that much better.

I once heard a story (probably apocryphal) that the continental Europeans in their in the drive to standardize the terminology used for food in the E.U. Common Market, didn’t think that the English sausage had enough meat in it to be legally called a sausage, and allegedly the French had suggested that the English should be forced to call their sausages “offal-tubes”. Apparently a compromise was reached and the English were allowed to call their “offal tubes”, “English sausages”.

So in preparation for the Friday night sausage fest, I spent four and a half hours driving around Sydney (it’s a big city of nearly 4 million people) buying different sausages. Sydney sees itself as a city that has a good food culture and there are some providores that really rape the consumer looking for “gourmet” foods. Unfortunately many peasant foods that have been noticed by the foodies (food-wankers), such as sausages, have been promoted up into the category of gourmet food.

It was an interesting experience going to the different kinds of sausage suppliers.

The first place I went to was a German delicatessen I found out about on the web, that some German guy raved on about. It was a very clean and upmarket establishment and the guy who made the sausages was out the back and a there was an amazingly “hochnäsiges Weibchen”, serving at a counter where the sausages were beautifully arranged like each one was almost like an event in it’s own right.

They sure looked good

Our interaction went something like this:

Me: Hi! what’s in the Thuringer style seasoning?

Her: Can’t tell you, it’s a secret.

Me: O.K. So what does it taste like?

Her: How do you expect me to answer a question like that? How can anyone describe a taste?

Me: By telling me what the main spices or flavourings are in the sausage.

Her: Marjoram.

Nearly every question I asked was met with the same irritation and hostility and to add insult to injury the sausages were quite expensive at just under $20 a kilo (7.35 Euros a kg or US$7.20 a lb). The woman at the counter, seemed to me at least, to think that the public were so far beneath her and the product she sold was far too good for hoi poli such as myself. I bought half a kilo (just over a pound) each of Thuringer Bratwurst, Bockwurst and Bratwurst. I also bought a small slice of Leberkäse (a Bavarian meatloaf). I would’ve bought more but I didn’t feel like giving my money to a person with their head so far up their own arse.

I ate the Leberkäse in the car for lunch and it was lousy.

Not a good omen.

The next butchers I went to were the Rodriguez Brothers (485 Hume Highway, Yagoona, NSW) who are Spanish butchers and they are famous for their chorizos. I only bought 1kg (2.2lbs) of chorizos because everyone knows what they are like (pork with garlic and pimenton) and 2kg of parrillero (South American style pork and beef) at $9kg (US $3.25lb or  5.10 Euros a kilo) I knew I’d be writing about the sausages for this blog so I asked to take a photo of the Latin guy serving me. He was shy so I only took one shot of him because I knew it was making him uncomfortable,

I wish I had've taken some more shots

but funnily enough, there was an Aussie butcher out the back who called out to me in a humorous voice:

“I better hide, you don’t want to get an Aussie butcher in your shot!” 

Me: “That’s right, because every one knows what you guys put in your sausages, and I don’t want to bring down the reputation of this place”

He laughed, and shouted out, “yeah, noses and arseholes!”

I laughed and then I told him about my grandfather who was a butcher and how when he was an apprentice in England, the butcher who was training him was prosecuted for selling sausages with hardly any meat in them. The butcher then said to me, “you won’t surprise an old time butcher like me, with stories of what went into sausages back in the bad old days”. He then went on to tell me about a butcher he knew years ago, who won the “best sausage in show” at the Royal Easter Show (a huge annual agriculture fair here in Sydney) with a chicken sausage that didn’t have any meat in it at all, and was flavoured with chicken and veal stock. As we talked, the conversation was full of laughter and it served as a reminder to me of how confident, relaxed and open a lot of Aussies are. Most Australians are fairly friendly and laid back in a very natural sort of way. Such a contrast to the first place I went to.

The final butchers I went to was the “Illawarra Road Meat Market” in Marrickville. This butcher, is the Greek butcher, that the guy at Il Greco put me onto for the loukaniko and they offer two kinds, dry and fresh.

This guy knows he makes a great product

The dry loukaniko comes in lengths about a metre long (about 3′) and is flavoured with leeks and chilli whilst the fresh loukaniko is the size of a normal sausage and is without the leeks and chilli. I bought 2kg of dried and 1kg of fresh at $12kg (US$4.30lb or 6.80Euros a kilo).

So for the diner I cooked the sausages in a Webber kettle barbeque, over charcoal and served them with a French tomato salad (tomatoes, Spanish onion, capers, mustard, olive oil and wine vinegar) and mashed potatoes.

The verdict. 

Everyone liked the expensive German sausages the least, which was surprising and a pity because the Germans usually make such good sausages. I guess it was just a reflection of that particular butcher rather, than German sausages in general. 

The Rodriguez Brothers chorizos were so tempting that I made huevos rancheros with chorizo for breakfast on Friday morning for my wife and I. I make an excellent huevos rancheros (even if I do say so myself) and the chorizos were so divine that I didn’t cook them up for the sausage fest but kept them for later on in the weekend.  Everyone at the dinner enjoyed the parrilleros.

The sausage that was judged the best were the dried loukaniko. The fresh loukaniko were good, but the dried ones were spectacular.

So the lesson learnt here, in my statistically insignificant sample group, is that the expensive place that had removed itself so far away from the peasant origins of it’s product, made the least enjoyable product. The butchers who remained true to their origins made the best product at a very reasonable price. 

19 thoughts on “The truth is in the sausage.”

  1. My friend, this is what I call an excellent piece of writing: when you get a vegetarian like me to completely enjoy your article about butchers and sausages. You are at the level of a guy that used to write car reviews in the major newspaper here in Slovenia: even my wife, being totally uninterested in cars (except the colour holds some meaning for her), always enjoyed reading his reviews because they were so juicy and alive.
    As always, I am completely inspired by: A.) how much you know about the world, and B.) how open and proactive you are in interactions with people.
    I am really really really looking forward to your visit.

  2. I don’t have a barbecue grill and just looked up kettle grill…that cost a lot of sausages. Like Robert’s wife, I like the blue one! This really was an interesting post! I love chorizos and use it in my minestrone soup. Is that a mortal sin? Oh, well…divine.

  3. Robert

    Thanks for the compliment. I’m also looking forward to meeting up with you and your family in Slovenia this year. It’s not long now as we leave on the 20th of August and we’ll be in Slovenia about 4 or 5 weeks later.

    Pat

    My Webber (the kettle barbeque) was given to me by my in-laws for a birthday and I use it about once a week. I love the way it makes the food taste. So you are alluding to not being interested in cars…… I guess that explains why you bought the Saab (now I’m ducking for cover!)

  4. Ahhh! Huevos racncheros! I haven’t made that in ages! That used to be a staple for us. I think I’ll have to pick up the fixings.

    A sausage grillup is always a laudable exercise. It’s usually what I do for my birthday. I’m with you on the steak vs sausage debate. I love a good steak, but a good sausage is always the better pick, in my opinion.

    -Turkish Prawn

  5. What’s wrong with Saab? Would you say that Holden is any better? Saab is classy, unique and cool… Ok, you visit mechanics frequently, but, hey, life is much about meeting with other people, sharing and interacting, and mechanics can be a lot of fun, you know, life is not just sitting alone in a perfect car and driving into the sunset…

  6. Turkish

    We should each post on our blogs how we do our huevos rancheros.

    Robert

    I was stirring Pat in regards to a comment that myself and another guy made about Saabs over a year ago on either his or Pat’s blog. The original comment was referring to the common perception here in Australia and in parts of the States it would seem, that Saab is a yuppie wannabe’s car.

    By the way, I think Holdens are crap. I drive a Subaru Outback, which in Santa Fe, New Mexico is considered a lesbian’s car. As I said to Pat before, “I guess you better cover me in honey and throw me to the lesbians!

  7. I wish I could have been a part of this scientific study of sausages. May have to try replicating it! As for the ensuing conversation about Saabs, Subarus and lesbians… I won’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

  8. Ah yes, a great post.I too am a snagaholic. I prefer a good feed of sausages to steak any day. Some of those you wrote about sound absolutely to kill for

  9. Just reading this post makes me want to move to Sydney. :)
    Living in Slovenia is (quite often) very unimaginative in culinary sense – at least if you want to try different national cuisines – I am not talking restaurants, I’m talking ingridients and raw materials that are used in any other kitchen than Slovene, German or Italian (ok, I am exaggariting a bit). Having Spanish, Greek, German butchers around is just a dream. But on the other hand – we’re so lucky we are located in the middle of Europe that after 4 and half hours of driving I’d probably find a Greek butcher in Vienna ;))
    I hope You come to Slovenia while I am still walking around in one piece, so we can meet for a coffe.

  10. Subaru Outback a lesbian car? Now THIS definitely broadens my horizons…

    Why do you think they would lick you? Perhaps they would …stab you with their steely knives…, you know, in order to kill the beast…

    I see you are big in Slovenia. Now, that’s interesting, isn’t it?

  11. Cashmere

    Sydney does have a very diverse population (30% Asian) which is good in many ways but in others, It’s not so good. The good thing is the variety, the bad thing is that it’s so spread out all over the city and it would seem anything special that I want, is always about an hour’s drive away.

    By the way I made the Ričet that you had on your blog

    http://cashmerecafe.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/making-ricet/

    It was nice but I ate it all before I photographed it… D’oh!

    Robert

    “Why do you think they would lick you?”

    …. because I’d be covered in honey. Or, because if I drive a Subaru Outback, I must be a lesbian,……. according to a guy I met from Santa Fe.

    I don’t know about being big in Slovenia but there are 2 other blogs in your country that I visit and they’re a married couple, so it’s sort of like one other.

  12. I wrote a response that didn’t show up!! In between comment #5 Robert and your response to him, I wrote:

    “You tell him, Robert!!”

    An ally at last. I have no idea what a Holden is.

  13. Pat

    My server has been playing up over the last couple of days. I’m going to have to up-load the latest version on WordPress soon.

    A Holden is an Australian car company owned by General Motors in the US. Holden is to Australia what Opel is to Germany.

  14. Sausages!!!! mmmm Sausages!!!!

    Sausages are patient, sausages are kind.
    They do not envy, they do not boast, they are not proud.
    They are not rude, they are not self-seeking.
    They are not easily angered, they keep no record of wrongs.
    Sausages do not delight in evil, but rejoice with the truth.
    They always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.
    Sausages never fail.

    I Corinthians 13:4-8
    Bastardization by planetross

  15. This post officially makes you THE expert on Sydney’s sausages. I can’t believe you spent all that time driving all over Sydney in your quest for the perfect sausage selection, but as you drive a Subaru, at least I know you did it in 4wd comfort. This post is the perfect blend of food knowledge, delicious photography, portraiture and real people, not to mention a QUEST and a FEST. Fandabulous writing.

  16. I opted for a Holden Barina instead of a Subaru Outback because I didn’t want to get a reputation as a lesbian

  17. Fom memory, the lesbian version of the Subaru Outback is the one where the carpet doesn’t match the upholstery…it has heavy duty suspension on the drivers side only and is labeled the “onback”

    The sausages were a hit with me buddy..as was the post….

  18. Epic

    “Quest for a fest”, I love it! It would make a must better slogan on a T-shirt that, “born to party”.

    Tony

    Yep, the Barina is a real man’s car alright. Because, real men don’t care what people think about their car.

    Joe

    Thanks for the clarification about the “onback”. Glad you liked being hit with my sausage!

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