As the offspring of Eastern European immigrants, I grew up in a household where the mainstay of every meal was meat. When I was twelve, my father built a smokehouse in our backyard, inspiring our fellow Yugoslavian neighbors to do the same, followed by the Czechs who lived next door. In it he would cure his own prosciutto and homemade sausages, which ended up hanging in the shed like stalactites. I learned the value of fresh homemade food early on, and that there was honor and history in the task of spending hours in acts such as patiently stuffing raw meat into endless tubes of pig intestine. On the odd night no one felt like cooking, dinner was slivers of cured bacon accompanied by tomatoes, raw onion and chunks of fresh bread. I thought we were unique in this type of meal, until I learned about the plowman’s lunch and that a snack in Spain might consist of a piece of bread spread with unsalted butter and rubbed with tomato.
Despite all of this, there have been times I have flirted with being a vegetarian–most notably while in university. I was a a very bad one. I ate chocolate bars and pastries instead of vegetables. I became so malnourished that after a year of this, bits of my front teeth started to flake off and I had to get my dentist to file them down to make them even again. In the many years since, I have come to fully embrace the wonders of saturated fat, as outlined in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient and Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
Socrates once said “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I would add that a life without sausage and bacon is not worth living.
So tell me. What foods can you not live without?