I wrote a couple weeks ago about readily accepting new and different things when they’re offered to me and this is indeed a valuable policy for my study abroad experience. Sometimes, however, I’m not even given the option of saying yes or no to an offer. I just quietly accept what I’m given.
Some people are born adventurous. Some people become adventurous. But I, I had adventurousness thrust upon me. Well, what was actually thrust upon me was the helping of blood sausages that my host mother had dished onto my plate, but for someone who once (in the second grade) refused to eat ketchup on her hot dogs because it was a red sauce and therefore simply resembled blood, blood sausages themselves are an adventure in a casing. I’ve come a long way from my eight-year-old ketchup boycott, but consuming the three generous links I’d been given was still no easy feat. I accepted my plate and immediately began sipping from my water glass, a subtle stalling tactic that lets me pause and observe how others go about eating what they’ve been served. The host brother across the table from me stabbed through a sausage casing with his fork and knife, and the contents oozed onto his plate. Was this supposed to be such a mushy sausage? Couldn’t we have the firm kind, like kielbasa, that cuts into nice, civilized slices? And how are we supposed to eat the strange, stretchy casing if it’s no longer surrounding the sausage contents? (I’d say “if it’s no longer surrounding the meat,” but I imagine there are some ingredients of sausage that don’t fall into that category. Like blood, for example. Blood does not come under the category of meat.)
I had to eat something for lunch, so I finally cut into one of my links, spilling “sausage” onto my plate,and scooped up a forkful with a bite of baked apple. Chew. Swallow. It wasn’t so bad. In fact, with the lightly-baked apples with which it was served, the sausage was even kind of tasty. Nevertheless, consuming the rust-brown mush and stretchy casing of all three of my sausage links took a little bit of internal coaching: “Don’t think about the blood sausage, Lauren; just eat. Mmmm, isn’t this good? One left. You can do it.”
By the time I cut into my third link, I really just wanted the contents of my plate to disappear, and I caught myself taking some very sizable bites as I “sprinted” toward the “finish line” of the day’s gastronomical experience. Thankfully, my host mother is always a fast eater and had cleared her plate long before I finished with mine, so my increased pace went unnoticed. While my host brothers (there were just four of us that day), were clearing their own plates, my host mother brought out a baguette and the plate of cheeses: orange with an orange rind, white with a brown rind, white with a strange blue streak in the middle. It’s amazing how many varieties you can put on a single plate. “What’s this one?” I asked, indicating the hunk of white with brown rind. “Goat,” my host mother replied, then clarified, “It’s made with goat’s milk.” Not goat meat, but goat milk, of course, and since anything is less intimidating than pork blood sausage, goat cheese I will readily accept!
When it comes to blood sausage, I’m more of a survivor than a convert, but the experience does serve a fairly valuable purpose. I’ve stretched my culinary comfort zone to even greater limits and though this particular dish is still in the outermost ring, there’s plenty of room inside of that for slightly more tame and equally wonderful dishes. Moldy cheese. Mushroom soup. Meat that you have to chew off the bone. Why not? Compared to blood sausage, eating those things is a piece of cake… or, um, a piece of goat cheese. Whichever you prefer.