Speaking truth to wieners

Big truths are more important than small truths & yet, the multiplication of little lies may have a huge compounding effect. Such is the case in the annals of commerce & advertising, when goods are purposefully misrepresented — called one thing when they are quite another. This is not unusual in contemporary trade, thanks to the collapse of guild principles. Nor has it been for decades now; centuries in some jurisdictions. Indeed, the lies have been bureaucratically standardized.

Consider, gentle reader, the wiener, sometimes more fondly called the frankfurter, when it is neither. It has become a commodity on North American supermarket shelves, spreading worldwide with a “simplified” form of the English language. It is made from pork, cheap fillers as available, industrial chemicals & nitrite preservatives, mashed down to a paste then very thoroughly cooked. There is no case for it. Quite literally: the ersatz casing in which it is gathered by machines is stripped off at a later stage in the manufacturing process, leaving a product as softly generic in texture as in taste: a kind of congealed pabulum, for baby’s first adventure in solid food. One might almost call it “democratic.”

Thanks to the proliferation of small ethnic butchers (in Parkdale, we estimate their average height to be 5-foot-6) we are able to obtain the real wiener. This is a cooked minced pork sausage, to be sure, without the unnecessary ingredients, but with subtle spicing. It is longer than an industrial wiener, thinner, & somewhat curved from the effect of natural physical tensions. Crucially, it comes strung in a highly edible casing, made from the intestines of sheep. This gives it the snap when it is bitten into. Texture can be as important as taste, as cooks know from France to Japan. But only the foodies in North America seem to have clued in, & they only half-consciously. There is also a taste component in this muttonish ring. Finally, these sausages are smoked in their casing, which accounts for their richly irregular golden colour, contributes much to their taste, & even a little to their feel, when handling. Note that this “smoking” is an art. It thus excludes the squirting of a vile liquid artificial flavouring into the antecedent machine mash.

Cooked meats do not need to be cooked, incidentally; unless the intention is to ruin them. To the fastidiously hygienic, puritanized American mind (a term in which we subsume all British North Americans), nothing must be eaten until sterilized. This is why the food exporters of the world send their very lowest grade of products to North America; for by the time we are finished sterilizing everything, there’s no taste anyway. The poorest of the poor in Third World slums demand more flavour. Whereas, our poorest eat something they call “vienna sausage,” which is industrial wieners cooked yet again, stuffed in small cylindrical tins, & eaten often directly out of them in the belief that if the tin isn’t blistered, the contents will be safe.

Verily, wieners may be heated through for a few minutes in not-quite-boiling water, but are good cold. With a fine bread, with a potato salad, with condiments such as horseradish, a mustard, or our adored Moroccan harissa, they are sublime. They are exquisite for picnics, & joy to the workman in his packed lunch.

Now, the wiener is associated with a Frankfurt butcher in Vienna in the early 19th century; a certain Johann Georg Lahner. From the German Wicked Paedia we find that he was actually Franconian Swiss. But the sausage of his fame was rightly associated with Frankfurt am Main, and has a traceable pedigree, to the 13th century. (Everything of value in our culture is of Classical or Mediaeval origin, unless of Oriental. All we have added is machines.)

Note that in Frankfurt the “frankfurters,” which they themselves now call “wieners,” were by tradition packed in boxes when shipped, the layers separated by parchment. This was the cause of their subsequent shape: for they would come out somewhat squared in section. And here we encounter another lie, for our manufacturers often imitate this shape, carried to America no doubt by German immigrants. It was like putting the yellow food-dye in the margarine, to conceal what would be in its nature a repulsive light grey.

Let us not live even by little lies. Let us demand real wieners & frankfurters, just as we demand the real Latin Mass!