It cannot have escaped your notice that Valentine’s Day fast approaches. Everywhere I look the supermarket shelves are heaving with stuff repackaged in pink or red foil and marked up by twenty percent.
If you’re tired of saying it with overpriced flowers and bath bombs however, M&S have come up with a great wheeze. Say it with sausage! The ‘love sausage,’ no less!
I mean, I guess the message is clear. You can tell the Millennials have taken over the asylum, right?
The ‘love sausage’ is in fact two Cumberland sausages joined together to create a heart shape, covered in bacon (as if there weren’t enough meat involved already) into which they suggest you crack an egg (which you will need to buy separately, obvs) and bake in the oven.
I get it. I’m a big fan of sausage. I’m a woman who’s fantasised a footlong many a time and oft.
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a little cheap meat, connective tissue and breadcrumbs wrapped in pig intestines, does it?
The thing is, try as they might, the British Nutrition Foundation just can’t combat our affair with the sausage.
It may well be true that a high consumption of processed meat is associated with bowel cancer but – la la la! – we don’t want to hear that.
We so don’t want to hear the bad news about sausages that we continue to buy them at a dizzying rate. The market in sausages is worth over £500m every year.
And, the close cousin of the sausage – the sausage roll – is enjoying a moment itself. This week I read that a restaurant boasting two Michelin stars has put a sausage roll on its £135 tasting menu.
I guess if you give it a French name – the ‘saucisson roulade en croute – you can disguise its humble origins.
When I was at primary school I would beg my mum to let me have school dinners. Not just because I simply could not face being the only child in the packed lunch room chowing down on wholemeal bread and sunflower seeds, but because the school canteen served the sort of rubbish I could only dream of.
Sausage roll, chips and beans was my drug of choice. These were all things my parents, the proud owners of a Cranks recipe book, eschewed in favour of salad, kidney beans and cauliflower. Which is the story of the aspirational working class, let me tell you.
What I loved about the sausage roll was the colour; the fluorescent pink of the mushy content that bore absolutely no resemblance to anything that might previously have been a bit of animal.
And I loved the grease that dripped out of the hot, oily pastry casing.
When my mum made sausage rolls on special occasions – picnics, birthdays and the like – she would chop up actual sausages and wrap them in home-made pastry. The sausages she used were always ones with high meat content, herbs and, later, other ingredients like sun dried tomato.
Not for her the mechanically recovered meat, hot pink colouring and rehydrated rusk!
She did not get that we wanted to eat filth. We yearned for the sort of sausage rolls which came out of tins. (Yes, canned sausage rolls by Smedley were a thing.)
Of course, as every woman comes to realise, mother was right.
If we’re going to eat sausage, it needs to be little and often. (I’ve given up chasing the footlong dream.)
And we need to focus on quality. Not least because cheap meat has unhappy origins and unhappy consequences for us and the animals we eat.
So by all means go the hot sausage route this Valentine’s day if you dare, but remember to control your portion.