Sausage Party

I recently took a trip to Germany, the land of sausage, beer, and, subsequently, fairy tales. It is the first item on the list that truly has my heart, especially the dried variety the French call saucisson sec that is made to last for many months, yet still delightfully retains its meaty, slightly fatty flavor much better than anything that has been kept in the basement that long, and with less complaining.

Thus, upon my return to my current home in the Eastern hemisphere I dumped everything in my suitcase out – clothes, shoes, Fabergé eggs – in order to make room for this delightful treat. I was determined to pack as much meat candy as I possibly could cram into my suitcase and illegally smuggle in my carry on through customs.

My mother seemed concerned as I tossed my grandmother’s diamond bracelet she received at her wedding from a now-dead grandfather over my shoulder into the rubbish pile. She pursed her lips.

“Autumn,” she said gently, as though talking to a nervous stallion, yet unbroken by man, “don’t they have sausage in Korea?”

My eyes glazed over as thickly and surely as though they had been pushed under the Krispy Kreme doughnut machine as my mind hurled into a violent, triggering flashback that no mortal should be made to suffer.

 

I have been living in Korea for over a year now and have still not grown used to their sausage — and nor will I.

There are two options to be found here: soondae, which consists mainly of blood-soaked glass noodles with meat and spices in an intestinal casing (which, to be fair, is delicious in its own right, despite its inability to fill my sausage needs), or else the pale, flaccid monstrosity which can be best described as flavored sausage snack.

The flavored sausage snack (FSS for short, from now on) is roughly the same color as the underside of my arm: a sickly pale, yellow that comes from being away from good Lord’s light for too long. It is the bastard child of fish and cheese that nobody asked for, yet, much as a maggot seeks the innards of a corpse, came to be nestled close to the hearts of the Korean people.

A so-called friend gave me my first FSS, as I finished class one day. She was munching happily on what I assumed was a slightly expired string cheese. Having recently graduated college, my immune system was up and ready to take on whatever stupid thing I decided to consume next.

I took a tentative bite. The texture was strange, but not entirely unpleasant — it was a bit like a cheap cheese parents would feed to an offspring they didn’t like much. The taste was a bit stranger – vaguely fishy, but the texture feeling so violently incorrect for cheese that it was difficult to process.

“What is this?” I asked, a sense of dread beginning to tingle at the base of my spine.

“Sausage, silly!” she chirped happily, taking another bite of her own. I resisted the urge to smack it out of her hand. Oh god, it has cancer in it, I found myself desperately thinking as I the rubbery fishy cheesy sausage product disappeared behind her yet youthful lips.

Fortunately, she did not die. Unfortunately, she also has yet to begin to display the fantastic X-Men powers I was sure would develop from such an encounter.

Unless, of course, they did.

Back in the ‘90s, Korea was still receiving Peace Corps aid. They were a poor country, with no real natural resources. Why have they been so successful?  Does it have to do with the consumption of this mysterious sausage snack? I’m not willing to test it out.

The Glory of the Walmart

When living abroad, one starts to celebrate the simple, mundane things of life back home.

It begins with the little things. You revert to an infancy of knowing how to adult, and must therefore re-learn how to do all of the things your parents assured you at age six were perfectly legal and that you should not call CPS for: how to do laundry without flooding the room and the apartment below you; how to mail a letter in under two hours without having anyone call the cops; how to receive important-looking mail with lots of numbers on it and wondering is this a bill, how do I pay it, and if I don’t figure any of that out how long until they shut off my power and fetch the pitchforks?

Before moving abroad, those things were simple to me, if only because I understood the instructions, written in glorious, glorious English. Now, every time I go to pay my bills, I could be signing away my vital organs every time and would be none the wiser until I woke up in an ice tub with a message written in lipstick across the mirror.

If you were to talk to most expats like myself, though, it’s not things like knowing how internet banking works that they miss the most. Instead, for virtually every long-term expat it boils down to the food, and thus, what is available that appeases their native cultural palette. It was only after nearly a year of living abroad the second time that I began to fantasize about the many virtues of the common Walmart.

Walmart is not often spoken highly of by people whose parents are not also first cousins. These blue-and-gray cement structures, decorated by an enslaved smiley face whose all-seeing eye reigns over the American populace, dot the landscape of my native soil as surely and proudly as helicopter parents at a PTA meeting. They offer everything from forty-six varieties of scented candles (now available in scents such as “Divorce Papers” and “Laundered Sweater”), one hundred and fourteen different DVDs – all of them featuring that majestic pinnacle of American comedy,  Adam Sandler  – in the five dollar bargain bin, and, my favorite, at least five different kinds of hard cheese.

Cheese is really hard to come by where I live. Last Thursday, while weeping gently, I shelled out nearly eight dollars for a small tub of sub-par ricotta. There is no chevre, no gruyere, no muenster, no block of aged parmesan to be found. Instead, there exist only those green plastic shake containers that one needs an ice pick for when all of the cheese suddenly decides to clump together into a massive, lumpy stone.

At “the Walmart” as people in my native South like to bandy about, there are other fantastic items such nineteen kinds of microwavable pork rinds, thirty-six different varieties of instant macaroni and cheese, all promising to look like cartoon characters but end up looking more like nuclear fallout characters (especially with the unnatural orange glow), two thousand and sixteen kinds of frozen dinners that have the charming ability to be burnt on the outside and frozen in the middle, forty-nine kinds of congealed canned soup, and approximately four different fresh vegetables.

It is, in summary, the pinnacle of the average American diet.

I know, upon returning home, that I am likely to try to venture to Walmart, see one kid on a leash being dragged around by an obese woman on her mobility scooter buying nine bottles of soda, and turn my Achilles’ heel to get my ‘Murica fix somewhere that doesn’t have a website dedicated to the questionable wardrobe choices of their patronage. But until then, it remains in my mind as the quintessential eighth wonder of the world.