Illustration by Bob AulSo here I lie, my feet up in the air, dreaming of a big, black, bloody sausage. That may sound like the opening line of a William S. Burroughs novel, but please get your minds out of the gutter, people. After all, this is a food column, and the subject today is in fact blood sausage, sometimes known as black pudding, one of my many gustatory obsessions.
Despite its horrid moniker, blood sausage is a scrumptious amalgamation of pork and/or beef blood, suet, barley, oatmeal, breadcrumbs, and spices, all stuffed into pig intestine. Common to the British Isles, where they eat such funky stuff, variations are also consumed on the Continent, where it goes by more appealing appellations such as blutwurst in German, morcilla in Spanish, and the almost-poetic boudin noir in French.
My first experience with this sable salami was at an Irish restaurant in New York where I inhaled a proper Irish breakfast of eggs, rashers (lean Irish bacon), broiled tomato, mushrooms, toast, and black and white pudding. This last treat consisted of grilled slices of blood sausage (black from the blood) and its counterpart minus the pig's plasma (i.e. white pudding).
"Pudding" is a more apt description of the taste than "sausage," as the texture is smooth and creamy and unlike anything you'll ever find gathering dust in a Hickory Farms gift pack. Black pudding is similar to pâté de foie gras, but spicier and, of course, without the livery flavor.
"It's definitely an acquired taste," says Jacky Wyld, proprietor of the British Grocer in Fullerton. "Still, it goes out of here like nobody's business. People come from as far away as Las Vegas to buy it."
Wyld, who hails from Surrey, England, tells me black pudding is common as a breakfast food in Northern England and Scotland. Her shop, extant for 20 years now, sells a variety of British wares and foods: English teas, Jaffa cakes, Heinz beans and the like. But I usually make a beeline for Wyld's freezer, one of the few in which I can find a couple of different kinds of black puddings to drool over.
A mere $3.75 will get you a nice-sized link of Donnelly's Blood Pudding, manufactured in the Bronx, of all places. The same amount can fetch you a slightly larger portion of a black pudding produced locally by G. Hornby in Glendale. What with the price being so reasonable and my appetite being gargantuan, I purchased one of each, snatching a free copy of the Union Jack, "America's Only National British Newspaper," on my way out.
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At home, I fried up half of each portion and sat down to a feast as I read about poor Cherie Blair, Prime Minsiter Tony Blair's wife, and the recent scandals that have engulfed her. Though I'm not qualified to comment on the politics of it, I must say Cherie's a dead sexy old gal, round in all the right places. Blimey, I'd gladly share my ebony bologna with her any day of the week!
My enthusiasm for sweet Cherie carried over to my black pudding, and before you knew it, I had devoured the whole platter. Donnelly's has a smoother taste with less seasoning than G. Hornby's, but I thoroughly enjoyed both. G. Hornby's especially reminds me of caldo de salchicha, a blood-sausage soup I had at an Ecuadorian restaurant long ago that I still fantasize about. The piquant combination of black pepper, thyme, marjoram and sage stayed with me for hours, even after I'd downed several Boddingtons Cream Ales to ease the pork's passage from my fleshy frame.
Which brings me to why my feet are in the air as I dictate this column. In a word, gout! Yes, the disease of kings and king of diseases strikes me whenever I overindulge in fatty meats and alcoholic beverages, swelling one of my big toes and leaving me temporarily incapacitated. As I'd been doing my Henry VIII impersonation of late, that trough of black pudding I gobbled down undoubtedly put me over the edge. At least I have the memory of the blood pudding to ease the pain. Who knew gluttony could hurt so good?
The British Grocer, located at Villa del Sol, 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, is open Mon.-Wed. & Fri., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (714) 738-0229.