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Forklore: A Very Important Sausage

Forklore sigProbably the most influential sausage recipe ever was lucanica. The descendants of this ancient Roman sausage -- greatly changed over the millenniums, of course -- are found in Italy (luganega), Spain (longaniza), Portugal (linguiƧa), Greece (loukaniko), Bulgaria (lukanka) and beyond. The word even entered Hebrew and Arabic. It may have created our modern idea of what sausage is.

People have been stuffing animal gut for a very long time. In Siberia and various other places, the guts of grazing animals were considered ready-stuffed; they were eaten with the contents of the animal's last meal in them. Elsewhere, gut was often considered a handy container for odds and ends from a butchered animal.

In "De Re Coquinaria," the 4th century Roman cookbook, we find three products made from stuffed gut: botellus, a sort of blood sausage that included egg yolks; farcimen, a catch-all category filled with mixtures like eggs and brains or meat and grain; and lucanica.

The stuffing of lucanica was a spiced mixture of minced pork and fat, and this was apparently the essence of it, because in the book the recipe refers to an earlier recipe for stuffed beef and pork wombs (yes--the Romans were fond of eating wombs) with a similar filling. The flavoring of lucanica was pepper, cumin, herbs and the salty fish sauce liquamen, and that's still pretty much sausage as we know it, except for the fish sauce part.

-- Charles Perry

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