Whether you’re barmy for Bratwurst or loopy for a Lincolnshire, the humble sausage has been a favourite for pork-lovers for centuries.
However, the tasty pork parcels have not always been as easily accepted as they are today and history records sausages being at the centre of many bizarre and often controversial events. Here are 10 of our favorites:
10. The Sausage Anti-Christ
A special spiced sausage made with pork, pine nuts and pepper was a favourite dish at the ancient Roman Lupercalian and Floralian festivals. This being the Romans, these pagan celebrations regularly descended into debauched orgies which were frowned on by Christians. Happily for the moral Right, Christian emperor Constantine the Great came into power in AD324 and, realising the potency of the humble sausage, banned them. Not ones to be easily defeated, the Romans quickly started a black market in sausages which lasted several years, until the ban was lifted.
9. The Comedy Sausage
The Ancient Greeks liked a good laugh, and none more so than playwright Epicharmus, who penned a rip-roaring comedy called Orya (‘The Sausage’) in about 500BC. Sadly only a fragment of this play remains today, so we will never know what the big joke was (though some of us can probably guess).
8. The Pricey Sausage
Australian comedian and businessman Steve Vizard may not have been preparing for a fried breakfast when he ordered his broker to buy shares in Sausage Software, but he was indulging in a little insider trading. In 2000 Vizard was charged with insider trading for trading in Sausage shares based on highly confidential information he had received in his capacity as a director with Telstra, which was planning to acquire a controlling interest in the company. Ironically Vizard actually lost money on the deal after waiting too long to sell, leaving him $150,000 out of pocket.
7. The Purifying Sausage
Great American novelist Upton Sinclair was so appalled by the conditions he witnessed in Chicago’s meat processing facilities that he felt compelled to write about them. The resulting book, The Jungle, which revealed how sausages regularly ended up filled with a mixture of pork, rat and poisoned bread, caused such an outrage in America that Congress was moved to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 to crack down on unhygienic conditions.
6. The Mega Sausage
The World Record-holding longest smoked sausage ever made caused hundreds to turn out when it was distributed among locals in Bucharest, Romania. Created by Caroli Foods, the 392.89 m-long sausage, unveiled two days after Christmas in 2008, became the focal point of a huge party, Including music, performance and dozens of people dressed as Santa Claus.
5. The Death Sausage
Your life has probably already gotten pretty bad if you’re being forced to share a solitary sausage with 13 other people for dinner, so pity the poor 18th Century peasants in Wildbad, Germany, who were just a meagre mouthful away from discovering deadly disease botulism. Easily killed by proper cooking this toxic bacteria causes muscle paralysis and a slow and painful death by suffocation. Within hours six of the peasants were dead and the rest seriously ill, almost certainly leading them to wish they’d given it just a couple more minutes in the pot.
4. Radical Sausage
In 1981 Moroccan tanker engineer Joseph Guillou found himself in hot water for choosing a sausage as an unconventional wall decoration. The unfortunate worker was jailed for two years after pinning the pork product to a hook normally reserved for a portrait of Morocco’s King Hassan. Guillou probably didn’t help matters by saying in his defence that a sausage was ‘more useful than a picture of the king.’
3. The Epic Sausage
When discussing the history of the humble sausage it is commonly pointed out that one of the first documented mentions of the food stuff occur in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, dating from around the 8th Century BC. What is often overlooked is the actual point of mention: “As when a man near a great glowing fire turns to and fro a sausage, full of fat and blood, anxious to have it quickly roast; so to and fro Odysseus tossed, and pondered how to lay hands on the shameless suitors.”
Yep, the humble sausage in question is the hero of the whole piece, being slowly roasted by angst the night before brutally massacring the many suitors of his estranged wife and their girlfriends. Nice chap.
2. The Racing Sausage
Since the mid-1990s home baseball games for the Milwaukee Brewers have featured an unusual event before the bottom of the sixth innings. Characters representing sausages from around the world race round the stadium for the amusement of the crowd. This popular event has in itself sparked some unusual incidents, such as in 2003, when visiting Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon took a swing at the Italian sausage with his bat as it passed the visitors’ dugout. The woman in the suit was not seriously injured, but Simon was arrested, fined and suspended from three games, and the incident has gone down in bizarre baseball history. In 2010 the sausage race made headlines again when the Italian sausage collided with a police motorcycle while running to the stadium, again there were no serious injuries.
1. The Human Sausage
Chicago sausage-maker Adolph Luetgert became famous with his neighbours in 1987 for his blazing rows with his wife Louisa, little did they realise he was soon to become famous with the whole town. At the forefront of the couple’s problems was Adolph’s affair with their housekeeper, Louisa’s niece, Mary Siemering. Adolph had set up a little love nest for himself in his sausage factory and when Louisa went to confront him on the night of May 1 she was never seen again. Police later discovered Louisa’s rings in the bottom of one of the sausage factory’s vats and Adolph was imprisoned for life. He went mad in jail, protesting his innocence, and died in an asylum years later.
Tom Parnell is a former journalist and freelance online writer. He is currently working with the nice people at Lovepork, who have plenty of delicious sausage recipes.