Huw Oliver was a life-long vegetarian until lockdown – not by choice, but out of hippyish family custom. Twenty-five years of no meat. Then he got stuck in a house with a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. Desperate to inject some sort of excitement into his life, he has decided to cook and eat every available meat for the very first time. To his intestines (and his dad): sorry. This is Meat, Reviewed.
Week seven: Sausage and mash
In the very grounding scheme of lockdown, cutting all these intestinal ribbons feels pretty momentous. Snip... snip... snip. I am Prince Charles, opening a new maths department at an insanely unremarkable suburban grammar.
To the shock of almost everyone I meet, I’ve never had a proper sausage. And so my first will obviously be pork. These pinkish, 85-percent-pig specimens are branded as ‘director’s pork’, fresh from Wolverhampton. They promise to be ‘succulent, seasoned and British’: the best proper butcher’s bangers I could find.
You might say it’s pretty stupid to eat sausage and mash when it’s 25C outside. But listen, I’m the guy who decided to turn carnivore on the hoof after a whole lifetime of accumulated vegetarian superiority... whoever said I was clever?
The prep I’m in the mood to break a few more conventions, so I’m baking not frying. Half-way in – roughly when boom, thwack, that distinctive cooked sausage pong kicks in – I chuck in sliced onions, and a gravy mix of fresh parsley, mustard, dried thyme and basil, and veg stock. I whip up a milky, buttery mash, layer over the bangers and gravy, and serve with petits pois.
The guilt factor Until tonight, I wasn’t aware of the science behind ‘natural hog casings’. As with pork pies – bin ’em, people – I can’t help but feel we’re treating pigs pretty shittily here. I don’t mind animals being killed, and turns out I actually quite like eating them too. But taking one part of a pig (in this case, their intestines, hands down the most disgusting part of the body) and squeezing assorted nameless cuts inside it seems just a smidge… ungracious. Actually, invasive.
First impressions Luckily, I only find this out a good hour or so after I tuck in. These well-browned tubes sure are robust. But through the elastic, and the pink interior is smooth. I’m into the variety. With a Linda McCartney, a Quorn or a Cauldron, it’s just cardboard inside and out. At least here you’ve got tough, and you’ve got mush. A proper sausage is complex like that.
The meat of the matter No cares, no worries: this dish is a professional mess. It’s you. It’s me. It’s that colleague who rocks up at 10.30am every day. It’s two-fingers to Michelin. It’s just a casual château of sausages and potatoes and peas surrounded by a moat of murky, muddy liquid. And I’m delighted to say it’s delicious. The fragrant pork. The heavy, dense spuds. The utter, minestrone-like carnage that is the gravy. I can totally see why this is a staple of both school canteens (it’s monstrous) and gourmet pub grub (it’s monstrous).
The aftertaste Are you supposed to feel this full? I only apportioned myself two bangers. A few peas. Some potatoes. Oh yeah, and a pint of gravy. Having teamed the slop with an Old Hoppy Hen, I’m feeling pretty woozy and, in these stifling conditions, certainly not up for my usual Monday-night routine of ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’ followed by bath. I sort of want to collapse, and I think in an ecstatic way?
Verdict? I went in sunburnt and with middling expectations. I came out sunburnt, very nearly unconscious... and yet, somehow, wanting at least one wee sausage more? Please, let’s just forget about the intestines. 8.5/10.
Next week: A filthy kebab
Read the whole Meat, Reviewed series.
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