Some foods are so simple they are just perfect, in the right context. Any chance you have to visit Italy, France or Spain you will find a common denominator, air cured pork, and in America, or in Germany you’ll find cooked sausage, hot dogs made from beef, pork or veal, or in Montreal you’ll find a Chien Chaud. (strange politics)
In Italy it’s generally called salame, or in the Marche it is called Ciauscolo and in Genoa, they call it Genoa salami. Each region has its own version and name, whilst sausages have fed both peasants and kings, traveled with sailors to all the corners of the globe, and remain popular.
The history of sausage is interesting and goes back further than you think, as it is one of the oldest forms of processed foods. In fact the evolution of foods is something we often associate with the past and not the present. While it is true many foods develop over centuries, some develop over shorter periods of time, decades or multiple decades, and if you live long enough you can see many trends and changes, some significant or not.
Sausage evolved over many centuries as people and cultures adopted a basic concept, the idea of meat in an edible casing. In the 9th Century B.C., the sausage is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. Then in the 1st Century A.D. Emperor Nero’s cook is credited with making the first “wiener.” Later in the 7th Century A.D. Leontius of Neapolis writes of a “string of sausages” in his book, “The Life and Miracles of Symeon the Fool.”
Then in 1487 the frankfurter was developed in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1690’s The popular sausage known as “dachshund” or “little dog” sausage was created by Johann Georghehner, a German butcher.
In 1805 The people of Vienna claim to be the birthplace of the hot dog. A master sausage maker who studied in Frankfurt, called his sausage “wienerwurst” and wiener comes from Wein, the German name for Vienna and wurst is German for sausage.
In 1860 Wienerwurst became known as “wienie” in America. Wienies and frankfurters do not become “hot dogs” until someone puts them on a bun. That is credited to German immigrants who sold hot dogs along with milk rolls and sauerkraut from pushcarts in New York City.
In 1867 Charles Feltman, a German butcher, the first Coney Island hot dog stand and in 1880 a German peddler, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, sold hot sausages in St. Louis. He provided white gloves to patrons so they would not burn their hands while eating the sausage. Patrons kept walking off with the gloves. His wife suggested using a split bun instead. He asked his brother-in-law, a baker, to develop a long soft roll that fit the meat and the hot dog was born.
This evolution isn’t really very important, or material to most chefs. The idea of change, permanent or transitory is more important in food. The hot dog is just meat in edible casing, not more, not less and even it started B.C., but no one really cares.
More importantly, the idea of what a hotdog brings to society is a good measure, and at the end of the day, a hotdog is an easy food, a fast food, a simple food and a convenient food. The classification of hotdogs as a fast food is what people consider important and not more, it all ends with ketchup, relish and mustard.
Now think of a table and stove, and consider that fire is millions of years old. Scientists discovered in the Qesem Cave, an archaeological site with the earliest evidence dating to around 300,000 years ago of unequivocal repeated fire building over a continuous period.
The evolution of fire is what changed human life as much as anything. There would be no proper kitchen without fire, and without the help of fuel combustion. This helped us evolve our thinking and the way we live in our kitchen today, hence Mesubim.
The cave was the kitchen, a place where people kept warm, slept , stored and ate meals. The kitchen, fire, comfort and the storage of raw materials in fundamental in everyday life whether you live in a cave, or in a tent or a yurt. The fundamentals of life haven’t changed much, except we employ more science to help us understand behavior.
If you look at Ferran, and El Bulli, it all begins to make sense. He single handled took on the idea of re-construction and by using deconstruction. When I sat with Ferran at his counter, he simply said, “I did not invent, I explore and create” and I always remember his words, a truth about modern-day thinking in the kitchen. His idea that fusion is universal, and that taste is synonymous with new ideas, it is a pathway to create a new frontier without any barriers and he succeeded.
I had some trouble with his ideas my first visit to his laboratory 12 years ago, and I was astonished when I visited his test kitchen and office. He had so many disgusting foods from all over the globe, jellies, canned foods and weird packaged foods.
I realized years later that his idea was to collect as many food thoughts as possible, not only techniques, but also through scientific experimentation and collectively create a new food language. He has proven to be genius, his actions are permanent and not temporary, and this is the sign of genius.