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Border Food

Some of the best food is created where cultures meet: French and Spanish in Basque country; Italian and Arab in Sicily; or French and German in Alsace.  I submit that the same level of excellence applies to the points where seasons meet.  Most especially right now where summer meets autumn.  Our markets and tables are full of the bounty of summer but the cooler weather helps to reinvigorate dormant appetites that phone it in during the hottest days of August.

I prepared an impromptu lunch for myself that without thinking about it straddled this border.  A sort of open-faced sandwich of pork sausage with sawmill gravy, tomatoes and homemade ketchup on toast.  Here it is from bottom up.

The toast was made with the bread that happened to be at hand.  It claims to have multiple grains, is visibly seedy, but comes pre-sliced in a plastic bag and I don’t care because it’s pretty tasty.

Wanting to make this a one-dirty-hand meal instead of a knife-and-fork meal I kept the sausages in patty form but the other route of seasoning and crumbling the meat would have been just as (if not more) tasty.  (Think how you would could ground beef if you were making tacos from a kit (gasp, again).)  The pork was ground berkshire that I got back in the summer.  On top of the obvious salt and ground pepper I added some red pepper flakes and roughly minced thyme and sage.  Both herbs are probably better suited to a steadier, more moderate climate–like England’s–but have put on a second growth with the cooler wetter weather that has produced more delicate leaves.

Sawmill gravy is, in my opinion, made best without measuring.  I melted roughly a tablespoon of butter in the pan the sausages cooked in, scattered over roughly a tablespoon of flour and cooked it until it had darkened slightly.  Once I was fairly confident that the “cereal taste” had cooked out of the flour I added about a cup of milk and stirred vigorously until the gravy was hot and thick.  All the stirring is done with a straight-edge wooden spatula to make sure that none of the porky goodness is left in the pan.  It’s important that the gravy be well-seasoned with salt and lots of coarsely ground black pepper.  It’s thick enough–some would even call it stodgy–to make Keller and friends recoil but that’s how I like it.

And so it goes: toast, the summer’s last fresh tomatoes, sausage flavoured by some of the last fresh herbs before they have to be brought in to avoid frost, my sawmill gravy which is unabashedly hearty and just reeks of colder weather, and some homemade ketchup that will be a large part of my tomato intake for the next eight or nine months.  The ketchup is thin and spicy (with spices, not capsaicin), exactly like it was when I was a kid but that’s worth it’s own post.

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