The question of sausages has been exercising my mind , mouth and tummy for most of my adult life. The search for the Perfect Pork Sausage has become something of a personal quest. For the knights of the Round Table, it was the Holy Grail. For Siegfried it was the golden ring. For Dr Zhivago it was Lara. For me it is the sausage.
To be absolutely honest, I don’t think I gave that much thought to them while growing up because each Sunday we ate Vic Franklin’s peerless pork bangers. Vic Franklin was a butcher in the High Street of Twyford, Berks, where I grew up. Each Sunday at home began with three or four on the plate, cooked to plump perfection on the Aga, with just a splash of Heinz tomato ketchup on the side.
And then Franklin’s closed, shrouding the Fort Sunday in sackcloth and ashes. It was a classic tale of our days. The shop, and what had formerly been the abattoir round the back in a burgeoning London commute dormitory town was worth more as a site for bijou dwellings than it was as a centre of one of the country’s great craft skills. Besides, the grandson of the founder was fed up with working a twelve hour days, seven days a week; feed up with trying to find and keep trained staff and fed up with never having a holiday. So he trousered the couple of million quid he was offered and went off on a cruise. I can’t say I blame him, but he, and his sausages, left a yawning chasm is the weekly breakfast, and occasional supper, order.
It may be that my memory of the Franklin masterpieces have become idealised, gilded by time, but there was something about the sweetness of the pork, the balance of the spicing, their texture and succulence, the way their plump, bronzed forms gleamed up at you from the plate, that made them like no other. They were moist. They were succulent. They had a pleasing density when cooked. The meat had been ground to the right coarseness and spiced and pepper to a nicety. They had a well-rounded, broad-shouldered presence on the plate and in the mouth. As my brother Tom wrote in his Te Deum for the shop in the Financial Times ‘It would take a top-notch lyric poet – a Herrick or Herbert of the kitchen range – to do justice to these sausages.’ I bought, I remember, a final five pounds of them on the day the shop closed forever, and eked them out over succeeding Sundays until they were gone.
Since then life has been a search for the sausage that would take their place.