King Kohl

Saumagen is stuffed pig’s stomach. I deeply regret I did not know of it when writing my “Gimcrack Gourmand” pieces, some years ago in the Tottawa Zit. Placed in a Wednesday food section among innumerable hints on healthy eating, and moderate drinking, I decided to lead the opposition. This was the most Catholic thing I could do. (Granted, I was still an Anglican at the time.) My maiden column was entitled, “Why Vegetarianism is Morally Wrong,” and concluded with a recipe for Serbian sheep’s head. (I believe Clinton was bombing Serbia at the time.) I took it from there; and within several months was removed from the section, by the unanimous demand of my fellow writers, and all the supermarket advertisers.

Ah well, back to the editorial page, where it seemed that my function was to make nice liberal people choke on their coffee over breakfast each morning, and spit up their corn flakes.

Had I only known at the time, I’m sure I would have worked in a column about stuffed pig’s stomach. I was then in the possession of several hundred cookery books, and one or another would have contained a recipe; perhaps an historical one, untreated by the modernist airbrush. Then I could have attempted to make it in my Kingston test kitchen (shared with my wife, now alas estranged).

“Sow’s stomach” is I think a more accurate translation of the German term. It is no mere sausage casing. A pig has a formidable, muscular stomach — a meat course in itself.

A Scotsman will immediately think of an haggis, which also comes in a stomach, albeit a more prim one that formerly belonged to a sheep; stuffed with more oatmeal and suet than any other sort of Aryan would think proper.

Now, being myself somewhat of the Gaelic genetic persuasion, I had a recipe for that. (The Western Islands, then farther west to Cape Breton, on my maternal side.) An haggis is a marvellous savoury thing, sadly confined to celebrations of New Years, and tragically combined with unintended parodies of Robbie Burns. Whereas, your saumagen comes full of what appear to be partially digested vegetables.

Helmut Kohl, the former chancellor of Germany, deceased this week at the sort of age picky eaters never live to, loved to serve saumagen to foreign guests. He did not ask them if they wanted it. He was very tall, and large, and could probably make them eat it.

My more immediate ancestors had some “issues” with the Germans, during historically recent World Wars, but the country was allowed some place in the world, and Kohl knew how to occupy it. He was a tactical genius, as his domestic foes would eventually concede, yet like others with his skills he benefited from not looking very agile. Not at all. More like a gigantic smiling peasant, or meandering buffoon, though with enough vanity to resent the caricature.

Apparently, Kohl was despised, across Germany, and even in his native Rhineland-Palatinate, but “the peeple” consistently voted for him, and he did manage to choreograph the German reunification, and dance his way through Maastricht.

I am perversely impressed by politicians who can keep getting elected, without ever being “approved.” This Kohl had in common with Margaret Thatcher, but not with Attila, nor even Genghis Khan, whom I gather were quite popular with their respective hordes.