The Origin of Sausage
By Rachael Peckham
The origin of sausage is the boar. Spices are added because it’s a bad cut of meat, all tough and bland. I refused to eat it when I learned its source through a 4-H project—one that had me tour a meat packing plant as an adolescent.
For as long as I live I’ll never forget the sight (and site) of those carcasses, split in half from jowl to tail, their feet literally hooked to the ceiling for gravity to do its work. And yet, not a single drop of blood on the floor. Were they bled somewhere else? The tour didn’t feature that room. Only these frightening and beautiful bodies stripped down to the muscle, a hook through their heels.
Sausage sandwiches on thin white bread. I watched my friend smash hers until the sandwich turned wet and gray.
And the viewing made me think about the pig that was once alive and mine. In Carcass Class at the fair, I judged my pig to have an eighth-inch of back fat, and a seven-square-inch loin, and won myself first prize and a tour of Ed’s Meat Packing in Union City, Michigan, so I could see the carcass I had accurately sized up.
A boar can average eight hundred pounds. Its penis is long like an umbilical cord and shaped like a spiral. That’s why they call it screwing.
Of course it was not me, but my father—who used to judge livestock shows all over the country—who informed my predictions with numbers and measurements he quizzed me on until I knew them by heart.
I had to sit at the table until the entire sandwich was gone.
At Ed’s I peered into a barrel that held the contents of bologna. The parts were hard to distinguish, and I was told to move along, move along, a hand pushing into my back at the base where my shirt met my pants.
If the sandwich was still there by suppertime, that meant a hungry bedtime, so I waited late and snuck downstairs on steps that squeaked. The fridge cast a bright, buttery wedge on the floor. I remembered the chill in Ed’s, the whole place one refrigerator with many doors, like in a bad dream.
The pig that was mine was a Hampshire breed, thick white stripe across its shoulders, a belt he liked to have scratched.
When the Amish butcher a hog, they boil all the hair off—only thing that goes to waste. The intestines are used as sausage casings.
There was one boar named Zeus that we picked from a catalog for his genetic superiority. His semen came in clear colored tubes stocked in a fridge that heats. Set at body temperature.
And that’s where sausage comes from. On my childhood desk sits the trophy, a gold-painted pig at the top.
Rachael Peckham received an MFA from Georgia College & State University and a PhD from Ohio University and is an assistant professor of English at Marshall University. Peckham is winner of the the 2010 Robert Watson Poetry Award sponsored by Spring Garden Press and storySouth. Her winning manuscript – Muck Fire – will be published as limited-edition, letter-pressed chapbook in fall 2011.
Photo by Dinty W. Moore