I suddenly had this yen for luncheon sausage. It was the sort of yen I still occasionally get for a cigarette after a quarter of a century of not smoking. You’re suddenly taken unawares by some distant need, some powerful repressed impulse that has fought its way up from the depths of your subconscious to confront you. ‘God, I’d love a cigarette.’ ‘I could kill for a piece of luncheon sausage.’ The cigarette yen is no problem. I used to know a very charming, urbane share broker called Alfie Des Tombe who could smoke just three cigarettes after dinner each night and that was that. I envied him but I could never be like him.
I know that if I smoked one cigarette tonight, I’d hate the taste, probably choke on the smoke and feel quite nauseous. But within a week I’d be back to 20 a day. Where cigarettes are concerned I’m an addict and I’m not going to tempt fate. As for the luncheon sausage yen, I really don’t know where it came from. Making kids’ lunches maybe in another life. When they’d gone, the last piece, doused with HP sauce, rolled into a tube and down the hatch. Or maybe in a white bread sandwich with a little salt and some hot English mustard. Divine!
Well, ‘divine’ in memory at least. I had to have some luncheon sausage.
I could find no luncheon sausage at the upmarket New World supermarket at Victoria Park. Maybe supermarkets didn’t sell luncheon sausage any more. Maybe nobody made luncheon sausage any more. Or maybe you could only get luncheon sausage from a butcher. I headed down West End Road and up the hill again to the Westmere Butcher. The Westmere Butcher, you need to understand, isn’t just somewhere you go to buy meat; the Westmere Butcher is an Auckland institution. Its status, to use an overworked, but in this case entirely accurate epithet, is ‘iconic’. It is regularly voted Best Butcher in Auckland by Metro magazine. Its meat is of the highest quality and nothing is too much trouble for the army of butchers waiting behind the counters to serve you.
Their pork sausages are to die for.
- ‘Two dozen pork sausages please. Can you divide them into six lots of four. In plastic bags please. We pop them in the freezer and take four out when we feel like sausies for tea.’
- ‘Six lots of four pork sausages in plastic bags coming up. That be all?’
‘That’s all today thanks.’
The place is always packed. It was packed when I arrived on my luncheon sausage quest. Must have waited, oh, 90 seconds before the young woman behind the counter asked me what I wanted. ‘I was wondering if you had any luncheon sausage. Not even sure that any one makes it anymore.’
‘No!’ she snapped. ‘We don’t sell that sort of rubbish here.’
I don’t know if all the other customers eyes were on me at that moment or if a stunned silence actually descended on the shop. It felt like it.
‘What did he say?’
‘I’m not sure, but I think he asked for luncheon sausage.’ ‘Oh my god, he didn’t, did he? Not luncheon sausage. Not at the Westmere Butcher. Is he mad?’ The young woman behind the counter was suggesting some alternative packaged meats with Italian sounding names, but I was already scuttling out of the shop, my tail between my legs. It would be all over Grey Lynn, Ponsonby, Herne Bay, St Mary’s Bay and Freemans Bay by tomorrow:
‘He asked for luncheon sausage.’
- ‘But that’s not the whole story.’
- ‘How do you mean – not the whole story?’
- ‘At the Westmere Butcher!’
- ‘Oh my god, you’re kidding. And it was Brian Edwards?’
- ‘Irish. No class. No breeding.’
At Countdown I could have bought enough luncheon sausage to feed an army of waifs on their way to school. Pork, Ham & Chicken and my personal favourite ‘Savoury Luncheon Sausage’ speckled with peas and carrots and other unspecified vegetable goodies. I bought 138 grams of the Ham and Chicken and 118 grams of the Savoury for a total of $1.59, went home and scoffed the lot with HP Sauce and Hot English Mustard. Not together of course. Gross but wonderful. You know, I don’t think the young woman should have said, ‘We don’t sell that sort of rubbish here.’ Not out loud at least. In publicly branding what I was asking for as rubbish, she was branding me, her customer, too as someone without judgement or taste. Kinda snobby really. One doesn’t expect that in these parts.