Remembrance of Italian Sausages Past
Really I should wait until it is the summer fair and festival season to write about this topic. But recently I was reminded of what a special place this sandwich holds in my heart. The power of taste memory is amazing.
Perhaps this should be a contender for one of the World’s Greatest Sandwiches, but I don’t quite feel like having the argument with Raf about whether a sausage sandwich is legitimately a sandwich, rather than a hoagie or some other variation on the form. But I digress.
Last week Albany Jane and I went out for lunch. While we intended to go somewhere else, we ended up at Morrette’s King of Steaks in Schenectady. And though we ordered their famous steak sandwich, we also learned they make their own sausage, and felt compelled to get one of those sandwiches too.
The first bite brought me back to one of my favorite foods growing up.
It all started at the Dade County Youth Fair. For me this place was just as special as Disney World, and maybe even a bit more so. After all, it only came once a year. And while it may have been dirtier, and didn’t have all those people dressed up in costume, it smelled better.
The smells were fantastic.
There was the sweet smoky smell that came from the tent selling whole roasted corn on the cob. From the funnel cake booths wafted the yeasty smells of fried dough. And the cotton candy machines filled the air with wisps of candy floss. But by far, my favorite smell of the fair came from the Italian sausage vendors.
They had piles of onions and peppers caramelizing on the griddle, cooking in the pork fat running off from coils of sweet and hot sausage. And once I was permitted to get one of the sandwiches, it became a treat I looked forward to every year.
Possibly this had something to do with growing up in a Jewish household that did not really eat pork, except for the occasional batch of breakfast sausage that was fried up to go with French toast. Somehow at breakfast pork was okay. Maybe I’ll try and have my mother explain that to me someday.
Regardless, biting into that sandwich at Morrette’s with golden fried onions, fennel-laced sausage, tomato sauce and cheese brought me right back to those days.
It also transported me back to the first few months I lived in California. It was there that I was truly living on my own for the very first time as an adult recently out of college. And it occurred to me that I could cook my favorite foods anytime I liked.
It helped that I had no job, so taking time to make a homemade lunch was one of the biggest perks of unemployment (and I will confess that it still is).
With surprising frequency, I’d slice up an onion and throw it in a pan with some fat and a sausage, covered over low heat. That way some fat would render from the sausage and season the onions, and occasionally I’d turn the sausage to brown on all sides. Then I’d add a bit of jarred tomato sauce and put the whole mess on a nice hearty steak roll.
Hardly gourmet, but it was deeply soul satisfying. And enjoying those sandwiches in our crappy damp apartment in Oakland are some of my fondest memories of that era. Well, that and falling for the woman who would later become Mrs. Fussy.
One day, probably in the very distant future, perhaps we can compel her to write a guest post about the beef stew she made there that won over the hearts and minds of my friends Raf and ADS.