‑Paul the sausage maker
Paul wasn’t an old man, but he was a tired man and a lonely man. His postie job had left his legs bowed as if always on an old motorbike. His early hours meant he went to bed early, too early for evening movies and dinners out with friends. And who were his friends anyway?
So Paul was middle aged, tired, lonely and a bit sad. But God could he make sausages. He made sausages from scratch and doing it right was his passion. He ate sausages from every butcher he found. He researched the making of sausages. He experimented. He tested. From the moments his rounds finished until his supper time and into the early evening he chopped and sautéed, simmered and stirred, then packed his concoctions into the machine and turned a handle to stuff the skins. Mild lamb with parsley and sage he grew in pots. Comfit of duck with oranges steeped in aged brandy. Robust lamb with Moroccan seven-spice and olives. Peppered rabbit and celery.
And as dusk became eve and all good pets should be home with their owners they would instead begin to come, drawn by the delicious savoury aromas. Dogs of all kind: from plump Labradors to skinny terriers. Cats both well-groomed and feral. And in an odd-looking ensemble they would all line up at the back door of Paul the postie, who at night became their hero, Paul the sausage man.
And each night, Paul would pick one furry creature to come inside, share his plate of sausage and watch TV. And for a night he would know the comfort of touch and company as he scratched the ears of his newest friend.
Until a dreadful night when no animals came. You see, Mrs Betsy had gotten sick of calling her cat to a bowl of crunchies that never got eaten. Yet her cat had become fat, something Mrs Betsy with her super-tanned and taut limbs would not tolerate. So Mrs Betsy had followed little Shmoo-Shmoo her Persian Blue, and seen her welcomed into Paul the postie’s house with a plateful of sausages. Sausages! Ugh, how…fattening.
So Mrs Betsy started a campaign of whispers amongst the neighbourhood pet-people, and soon they were all shutting in their animals by 5pm, before the first eddies of delicious aroma teased the dusk breezes. Small children heard some adult whispering too, and in that way that small children do turned them into black gold, a sinister thing, the urban legend of the man who took people into his home then minced them for his sausage machine.
Paul was shunned now by animals and children too. He grew a little more bowed, a fair bit tireder, and a lot sadder. Yet he continued to make sausages; what else could he do?
One evening he wrapped some sausages in the local paper to take to the local vicar. Paul wasn’t religious but the vicar herded a group of church women who ran a Sunday sausage sizzle to generate funds for community groups. He was lovingly wrapping a mixed two dozen when he saw the world ‘sausage’ on the paper. It was an advert that went:
‘Do you make sausages?’Do you like to eat sausages and drink beer? If you like either then come to the Princess Hotel, May 1 st, for our annual sausage makers competition. Enter your best 2 dozen, or be part of the judging crowd! No charge for entrants, eaters just $5.’
On the night he went he felt nervous. But at the hotel courtyard he was greeted warmly by the publican and his wife who was a chef. ‘Ooh these look GOOD’ said Roberta. ‘Do you trust me to grill them? The judges are getting pretty eager’ and she held his arm and steered him into a small crowd of friendly faces.
And ‘grab a beer mate’, said Simon. ‘First one’s free for entrants.’ Simon stood close beside him and said ‘So tell me about your snags mate’.
Soon Paul’s face was grin-split as he talked to ‘Jacqeline but call me Jack’, a plumply pretty English cook who wanted to know about his knife technique for fine-mincing and what cut of lamb did he use for that one?’ Then two Sicilian brothers Agnostino and Angelo pulled him into a conversation about cereals and spice-blends. Paul had three beers and was holding a sausage dripping its good grease into a crusty bread-roll. Paul was happy. As he watched the judging begin as people in the crowd were handed sausages and score cards he became anxious. He knew his tasted good and had good texture too, but what was the ‘presentation’ factor? He asked Angelo.
‘Mate they just want to see you make a nice-shaped snag, the right size for how much punch it packs’. Ahh. The three men and Jack watched in silence as first tastes were taken. They saw heads nod and lips get licked. It was OK. The eaters kept smiling, nothing was spat out. All around them other sausage-makers exhaled, the music went on, and more beers were bought.
After he won second prize, wedged comfortably between Jack’s first and the Brother’s third, Paul was still a middle-aged man, but he was not a tired man or a lonely man. On the pretence of planning to murder him for his spiced lamb sausage recipe, Agnostino dragged him into the wildness of Italian family life most weekends. When his kids had birthday festas Paul was there with sausages, as new bubs heads were wet with wine and blessed with song, Paul shyly bought his old guitar and joined in. When Roberta and Simon celebrated a year of running the little pub, Paul was there cheering them on from the warm local community they’d helped to build. And Jack was there too. As their head chef she was proud, rounded and sated with good food and love. Paul was so good to her.
One night he was wrapping their four dozen sausages for the church ladies while Jack was cleaning up from their cook-fest. He saw the word ‘sausage’ on the local paper he was using. ‘Hey love’ he called out, ‘the Butcher in Willi is looking for a sausage maker; reckon its time I quit the post?’
Life was good, like that classic trio of onion, celery and leek where the salt brings out the sugar.