Saturday, August 12, 2006



A couple of weeks ago, on Myfanwe's birthday, a group of us (Myfanwe, L'il Myfanwe, Gale, Jules, Honora, and Elle) decended on the annual book sale at Chicago's Newberry Library. (We all went out afterwards to celebrate Myfanwe's birthday, too.)

If you aren't familiar with the Newberry book sale, it takes up almost all of the public areas of this rather large (and lovely) library. Thousands and thousands of books on almost every subject, all reasonably priced.

As we assembled at the library, I mentioned to 'Lil Myfanwe that my fondest wish was to find, amidst the hundreds of books on cookery, a book on charcuterie -- the art of sausage making. 'Lil Myfanwe thought this was a very funny thing to wish for, and got an even bigger chortle out of the word charcuterie.

'Lil Myfanwe thinks I'm a bit odd*, I suspect, but that's niether here nor there. I didn't think the Newberry book sale was an odd place to look for a book on sausage making, and, indeed, I did find a perfectly lovely book on pates and meatloaves. But, alas, no book on sausages. I was bereft. And the brunt of ridicule.

Now this is as good a place as any to explain my almost cellular love for sausage. I like making my own sausage. It is a very enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. And I can't think of a better lunch than a really good sausage, a little mustard, and some warm potato salad. But there is more -- my great-grandfather was a butcher and sausage maker; my family in Germany still make sausage professionally. And when Norbert helps me make sausage, I feel like I am passing on a rich heritage to the fifth generation (that I know about) of sausage makers in our family.

Now -- to make a long story even longer.

This morning. the first of our vacation, Myfanwe expressed a desire to take a break from packing and organizing for vacation to attend a sale of discarded books being held at the local branch of our public library. Immediately upon entering the sale I fell upon the tables containing books on knitting (only two -- one I had and the other was filled with such ugly sweaters it came near to turning me off of knitting) and cookery. I picked up books on Turkish cuisine and Hungarian cuisine, but there were no books to be had on sausage. I didn't exactly sulk, but I wandered around the room a bit dejectedly while Myfanwe and Norbert looked for books. I picked up a book on The Troubles in Northern Ireland while I roamed the room.

After a while I began wishing Myfanwe and Norbert would hurry up. As I worked my way across the room to where Myfanwe was looking through boxes, I happened by the cookbooks again and thought that it wouldn't be a bad idea to look through them a second time...I might want to pick up a battered copy of Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America for my friend Nancy Claire if it was still there.

Sitting there on the table -- obviously returned to the table by someone who had changed their mind -- was a copy of Jane Grigson's "The Art of Making Sausages, Pates, and Other Charcuterie"!! This is the out-of-print Holy Grail of American sausage books! Julia and Craig and James ALL said so! (OK -- they hadn't read Ruhlman's new book, but niether have I and I can't at this time, afford to buy one, as much as I would like to...and if I go off on an even bigger sausage-geek tangent this post will never end...)

Anyway, Grigson's book has dozens of different formulae for everything from bulk sausage to Saucisses au Champagne (which calls for pork still warm from the slaughter...all the better to absorb the champaign)! And all for the reasonable price of $0.75! I was all heart was racing and my hands were shaking.

I grabbed book, held it tightly to my my chest to protect it from the pushy lady who had already tried to take a book on the Truman Doctrine right out of my hands. Myfanwe knew something was up -- by the time I reached her I was pale and clammy and my voice was breaking when I asked if she was almost finished. When I showed her the book she understood immediately. Her first response was "I can't wait to tell Myfanwe!"

So, my dear friend, I hope you are reading this. Because I think you should know...


* While at dinner after the Newberry book sale, Myfanwe slipped off to the powder room, giving 'Lil Myfanwe opportunity to ask me what I had gotten Myfanwe for her birthday. When I told her I had purchased a new book on the 1918 influenza pandemic, 'Lil Myfanwe said "No, really -- what did you get her?" I then explained that I had knew Myfanwe wanted it, had purchased one, but then had to return it...I had purchased the wrong one. Myfanwe already had THAT book on the 1918 flu pandemic and wanted a different one. (I am glad I checked the bookshelfs at home!) She thought I was making it all up...until Myfanwe opened her gift, clapped her hands and said "Yeah! This is exactly what I wanted!" 'Lil Myfanwe REALLY thinks we are wierd!


Sarah said...

Great story! I love sausage.

Ironically, I have a black sock bag that I am just finishing up today.

If you are so inclined, I will email you a photo and if you like it, I would be happy to send it to you!

sbridger3 at cox dot net

Rob7534 said...

An excellent post! I love sausage!

Incidently, it's nice to meet a straight man who knits! Is there a local knitting club?

mc78 said...

I was about to agree w/ myfanwe and think you were weird, but summer sausage is a permanent guest in my fridge.