Even their names are poetry to me: chorizo, merguez, rosette, boudin noir, kielbasa, luganega, cotechino, zampone, chipolata, linguiça, weisswurst. Whose mouth has not watered in a well-stocked butcher shop or fancy-food market at the sight of many varieties of sausages: fresh and smoked, stuffed with pork, beef, lamb, liver, veal, venison and poultry and seasoned with herbs, garlic, pepper and spices too numerous to count?
Until about 10 years ago, there was a small store specializing in regional French sausages on Rue Delambre in Montparnasse, that famous little Parisian street where at one time Isadora Duncan lived, Man Ray had his first studio and Hemingway met Fitzgerald in a bar called the Dingo. Each time I entered that shop, I felt as if I were about to lose control of myself and make a scene. I'd point to one kind of sausage, change my mind and point to another, then ask for both. Often, after they had been expertly wrapped and I was on my way out, I rushed back and bought a couple more. My visits were a year apart, but the owners remembered me well and approached me each time with a smile of recognition and a touch of apprehension.
"They are bad for you," some of my friends warn me, as if all that stood between eternal life and me were one nicely grilled, richly seasoned kielbasa. Sad to say, there are people who regard lovers of sausages as relics from a kind of nutritional Dark Ages, ignorant of cholesterol and calories. For them, all the Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, North Africans, Chinese, Germans and Portuguese happily frying, grilling, boiling and poaching sausages are living terribly misguided lives. "Don't you know the disgusting things they put into sausages," they say to me incredulously. Of course I know. Some of the oldest and wisest cultures on earth eat them is my defense. In France there's even an organization called the A.A.A.A.A., the Amicable Association of Appreciators of Authentic Andouillettes, whose members regard the sausage that is made with pig's intestines filled with strips of choice innards mixed with pork fat and seasonings as the one and only ideal. In Finland, there is a similar society whose members meet once a week in a sauna to conduct "sensory testing" of sausages cooked over hot rocks.