Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Queen of the Sausages

No, it's not a type of baloney.
Yes, the white stuff is fat.
No, it doesn't make me wanna gag.
And yes, I'd take it over a butter-soaked lobster or a blue rare Peter Luger porterhouse any day -- and I really likey the lobster and the porterhouse a whole lot.
Behold... La mortadella.
Queen (note the feminine) of the Sausages.
Yes, it's a sausage. The world's biggest, even when not produced in the style of shock, awe and comic overabundance (see monstrosity below).
Una mortadella gigante!
No, it is not some mass-produced tube of lunch meat with nary a hint of real food or artistry inside the casing. Mortadella's heritage is steeped in perhaps the world's finest culinary center, Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, which is home to the likes of Parma (Proscuitto di Parma) and Reggio Emilia (Parmigiano-Reggiano) to name but, well, two.
Mortadella di Bologna has PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status under European law: http://bit.ly/KleEJ. It must be made within a small geographic area and by using traditional methods http://bit.ly/cSxMrw. And here's what's inside, basically: finely ground pork, seasonings like peppercorns and anise, wine, oftentimes pistachio nuts, and of course those tasty chunks of pure, luscious fat.
This ain't no Oscar Mayer tubesteak, friend.
Italy's former prime minister Romano Prodi was known as la mortadella because he was from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna's capital and ground zero for mortadella making, and because he had a physique some said resembled a thick sausage. Prodi was also saddled with the name because his demeanor was somewhat bland -- a characteristic also attributed to the famous salume. On this point I will have to disagree strenuously.
Mortadella is many things; bland it is not.
And no, we will not argue this point. We will move on. Except to note that paper-thin slices have for decades now been my personal preference, not the thick chunks enjoyed by many. (I would also challenge anybody to name a more satisfying sandwich than mortadella and fresh mozzarella on a baguette; save your energy, it's not gonna happen.)
I can't possibly be alone in this crazy cooked up sausage love affair of mine. Mortadella lovers, reveal yourselves! That's why God (and Blogger) gave us the "Comments" link, you know.
Back in 1971, the Italian moviemaker Carlo Ponti -- husband to one major bella donna, Sophia Loren -- released the swell-sounding film, "La Mortadella." Ring Lardner, Jr. wrote the screenplay; William Devane, Danny DeVito and Susan Sarandon co-starred. The movie's star was Ponti's moglie (that's his wife, Sophia).
Loren plays an Italian girl who travels to New York in order to visit her fiance. Her gift to the lucky Michele? One huge, honkin' mortadella, of course; for she is, alas, herself a Neopolitan sausage maker. Thing is, the U.S. Customs agents will have none of it. They detain poor Maddalena (and the well-travelled mortadella) and inform her that such foodstuffs, possible carriers of swine flu, are maiale non grata in America and must therefore be confiscated immediatamente.
Farce and general mayhem ensue, of course. And a year later the movie is released in the U.S. under another title, "Lady Liberty." The tagline: "Can a girl from a little sausage factory in Italy find romance and happiness in a pizzeria in New York?"
That's what I call making sausage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it!