Sausages in Cider
That morning Epifanea Tredwell had climbed over a two metre high mound of coffee beans, squeezed herself into a darkened space between black velvet curtains as painfully bright coloured lights came on at random intervals, and contemplated a large box of blood-spattered shop window dummies’ hands.
xxxThe paintings, even the ones incorporating strange objects and unpleasant substances, seemed so-so by comparison.
xxxArt can be very tiring, conceptual art, doubly so.
xxxThe coffee and the café, drink and room, were works of art in themselves and extremely welcome. At least the chairs were comfortable, and not like the un-sit-downable, spiked, ridged and precipitous mockeries of IKEA in Gallery Three.
xxx“Pffft!” she went, as she recognised the pattern so carefully constructed in the foam of her latte. Fannies are so last millennium.
xxxShe refrained from taking a photo and sending it home. His reaction was too predictable as was his reaction to tonight’s supper.
xxx“I tell all my friends my girlfriend loves sausages in cider,” wasn’t all that funny the first time. It might have been — when she was fifteen maybe; long, long ago that age seemed.
xxxSausages, she mused, are not like people. The more she travelled, the more she engaged with the folks she met around the world, the more she found that, beneath the superficial appearances of genes and culture, people were … well, people. Whereas sausages looked pretty similar from a distance — not to mention men making the same jokes about them — wherever she went. But the contents, taste and consistency of that humble foodstuff varied so much.
xxxAs, surprisingly, does cider, a West Country drink that was beginning to catch on in Eastern Europe. Finding that liquid in the shops was what triggered the idea of making an old but very English favourite in an unfamiliar setting. As long as she could find a dryish apple-based booze and a sausage less tightly packed with meaty chunks and more like the old British ‘banger’ than the Continental norm, the other ingredients should be no problem.
xxxIndeed, the onions, the carrot and even the mushrooms had been easy to find. It was not the autumnal time of year for wild mushrooms, so prevalent in mainland Europe, compared to fungus-fearing Blighty.
xxx‘They’d be wasted in this dish anyway,’ she thought, as she chopped up a couple of the familiar, farmed button variety, putting the rest in the fridge.
xxxMushrooms on toast for breakfast. Fried in butter, sprinkled with flour, a dash of mustard and enough milk to make a thick white sauce. Yummy. And she wouldn’t have to endure the sight of him ruining his with lashings of sugary ketchup.
xxxShe was still unsure about the sausages. Was this a mistake? A Polish serdelki seemed the best option, a smartphone search suggested, reinforced, or possibly confused, by hilarious attempts at sign language between herself and the large, jolly woman at the delikatesy. She had ascertained, or possibly not, that it was the least smoked, least dense, and least ‘chunky’ option. But was it too much like a Frankfurter? The word Wiener brought the phallic references back to mind, as had some of the more ribald gestures of the seller.
xxxOh, how we laughed.
xxxAt home she always favoured a basic Lincolnshire sausage for this dish. And that was something he did agree on, and not only, she felt sure, because he came from that county. The hint of sage and onion and even the rusk ‘padding’, really worked well in this concoction. Sometimes a sausage can be too meaty, too strongly flavoured.
xxxDon’t start that again. And don’t say things like this to him when he calls.
xxxIf he calls.
xxxIt’s a one-pot dish, perfect for the tiny stove in her shared flat. The other guest was a girl from Vietnam, who seemed even more reclusive than Eppy, and even earlier to bed. No, she didn’t want to share foods, she’d made herself a salad in a plastic bowl, which seemed to be predominantly coriander leaves, with which she had retreated to her room on the stroke of six o’clock.
xxxTravel: broaden the mind, experience new sights and sounds, avoid human contact. Some people. Oh well.
xxxThe onion was cut into medium chunks, the carrot sliced a little smaller and a potato peeled and similarly cut up. With the mushrooms they all lay, ready for the pot. A little oil went into the saucepan, over a medium-high heat and the onions started to sizzle as soon as they were added. The sausages, cut into bite-sized lengths, joined them soon after.
xxxShe remembered what cider could do to potatoes. More than once her efforts had been spoiled by that chewy skin forming where the fructose, the fruit sugar, in the cider had acted on the starch of the spuds. So she pre-cooked the potatoes and carrots in boiling water; so much for a ‘one-pot dish’. Meanwhile, she added the mushrooms to the sausages and onions and stirred them into the fat, letting them heat through for a few seconds, before she drowned the mixture in the cider.
xxxShe turned the heat as high as the little stove would go, bringing the stew to a boil. While it reduced by about half, she recalled that cider can also be used as a drink.
xxxHmm, not bad. Not as a dry, applish (Is that a word? Malic?), or as strong as many a real West Country brew, but then, not as sweet, fizzy or tasteless as their commercial cousins, either.
xxxListen to me. Suddenly I’m not only talking to myself, I’m becoming a booze critic too.
xxxPotatoes softened: check.
xxxLiquid reduced: check.
xxxTurn off the vegetables, drain off half the liquid, tip the pan in with the sausages: check.
xxxSalt and pepper to taste and reduce to a simmer: check and mate.
xxxAnd phone home. If it can be called home.
xxx“Fish and chips?”
xxx“No no no. I mean your favourite cheap laugh.”
xxx“Your favourite you mean. You’re the one who loves sausages inside …”
xxx“Yeah, right; say no more. I wonder what it would be like to have a grown-up boyfriend.”
xxx“You’d hate it.”
xxx“That’s still to be decided.”
xxx“No. You’re missing me terribly.”
xxx“That’s OK then. I wasn’t sure until you told me. Anyway, how’s your day been?”
xxx“Nothing to report, mon capitain. You’re the one having adventures. How’s Prague?”
xxx“I wouldn’t know; I’m not in Prague, idiot.”
xxx“Well, I wish I was there, wherever you are.”
xxx“That’s a coincidence.”
xxx“See, you do miss me. You wish I was there with you.”
xxx“No, I mean I wish you were in Prague, wherever I am.”