Blood Sausage. I used to like Grandpa’s home made sausage. This was usually made in the basement. When I was small, I was not allowed around when the actual process took place. It did not matter, the taste was worth the wait. It wasn't made often, appeared to be a lot of work as even Grandma had to help. When I reached the ripe old age of 6 I was allowed to watch for the first time. There was this mixture of meat and spices in a large bowl, and these ‘stringy tubes’ hanging from a rope attached to the basement rafters. Like a row of Christmas lights with tinsel hanging down. The mixture was made with a lot of liquid. Grandpa would take one of the tubes, grab handfuls of the mixture and carefully using his index and pointer fingers stuff it into an open end. Ah hah. Now I see a sort of rope began to form, a snake if you like. After using some string to tie each end, we now had something that looked like a ‘hotdog’ about two feet long.
I got very inquisitive and started asking questions. Big mistake. “What’s that liquid?” “Blood.” Grandpa would say. Whose blood I wondered. I began feeling a bit odd in the pit of my stomach. “What are those tubes?” I asked. “Intestines” came the reply. “Intestines?”. “Yes”. “Whose intestines?” I asked. (Good Lord I hope they are not Jonny's I thought). That was my second mistake. “Pig”. “Pig?” (Those cute little pink porky pigs I thought). “Yes, they are pig intestines. This is blood sausage”, said Grandpa. I never ate that again.
Burgers but no fries: Friday evening was the only day of the week I saw POP do any cooking. This of course was with Mom's permission. Not the kind of permission you had to ask for, but a kind of “understood” permission. It was also the only night he watched TV. This was something he & I did together. I don’t remember ever playing with Grandpa, not like he would get down on the ground with me, but never-the-less there were very special things that just the two of us did together. One of these were watching the Friday night fights. Fishing was the other one and is a story for later. He would sit in the chair in the living room, just in front of the TV, and I would sit on the foot stool right next to him. Gillette sponsored the fights so you had to watch the commercials before the fight began. "LOOK SHARP, FEEL SHARP, STAY SHARP" went the commercial advertising razor blades. And "FOAMY, THE SHAVE CREAM for real men". We rarely missed the fights in those days. Sometimes I would comb Grandpa’s hair while he was watched TV.
Why are my brains not scrambled?
"Pop" (as I sometimes called him) combs his hair straight back. If you pushed it all forward, it was pretty long, down to his eyes but he never did that. I think he liked my attention. This one Friday night I especially remember. Mom sent me downstairs to get Pop as the fights were on. I then followed him up the basement stairs. I used to stick to him like glue. He went up the first step, then I went up one, then he went up another and I went up another. A pretty simple arrangement, even for a 6 year old. I only came up to his waistline, so as I followed him up I was looking down at the steps, I new where I was going. The problem was Grandpa didn’t know where HE was going. After seven steps, when he got to the landing, he stopped. Of course, I didn’t. Well my feet wouldn’t quite fit on the same step as Grandpa’s and they couldn’t go back to where they came from. I don’t remember if I tumbled back down the steps, or just kind of zoomed backwards not touching a step on the way down, feet and legs outstretched in front of me.
The basement brick wall had stopped my fall. I thought my head hit the brick, as I was sitting butt first, back against the wall, with my feet resting on the first step. Grandma saw me first. CARL!! That’s a voice I didn’t hear too often. Grandpa turned around and they both came running down. “ARE YOU OK?” Well I must somehow not have hit my head, there wasn’t any ringing or pain in it and there wasn’t a ‘spot’ in the back that was hurting. In this particular case I was one lucky lad. Didn’t feel a thing. I got up, went up the stairs like nothing had happened. I was a little shaky but this was Friday night fights night. A guardian angel looking out for me perhaps? There were three instances in my childhood where I could have been injured for life. This was one of them.
The hamburgers that night were good. Pop had a procedure he used. "You have to make them just right". As he explained I listened intently. "You take a small amount of mixture and form a ball". This was slightly larger than a golf ball but nowhere near the size of a baseball. "Then with the griddle very hot, you use the spatula and smash the ball until it is very flat and starts to crisp up. Then you flip it over and do the same thing". We ate in front of the TV. A very special night indeed.