Saturday, January 1, 2011

Two Stories about Sausage

For years, and years, and years, I thought that sausage was by definition more healthy than bacon.

You see, whenever we went out to eat breakfast, itself a kind of rare occasion, my mom’s rule was that sausage was okay to order, but bacon was not. If my brothers and I did say we were thinking of bacon as a side, we were re-directed toward sausage instead.

As a kid, I thought I hated sausage. Perhaps not hated, but didn’t enjoy eating it, for sure. In all likelihood, this was simply because it wasn’t bacon. Bacon, this magical meat that everyone seems to use as a synonym for amazingly delicious, must be so much tastier than sausage if it was also so much worse for me that I wasn’t allowed to order it. Bacon was also, evidently, purely a breakfast food, while sausage was acceptable in grilled, thicker form in a bun for dinner sometimes.

It was only after I was an adult that I learned that nutritionally, they’re basically the same. I thought that perhaps sausage wasn’t fried, since I knew that bacon was, but that isn’t true. I thought sausage must not have as much fat, which isn’t really significantly true. So I started ordering the bacon that I wanted through my entire childhood.

And the magical thing is – I like them both about the same these days. I prefer bacon as part of sandwiches or otherwise other dishes, rather than by itself. Some days I do want bacon, and some days sausage is tastier. Now that sausage is allowed to be sausage in its own right, instead of “substitute for bacon”, it’s much better.

It still took me a really long time to realize how strange it was that my parents had this distinction. The only thing I can think of to make sense of it is that my mom couldn’t handle having to make a decision between two ‘equally bad’ choices. Somehow, she decided that sausage was the proper option to choose, and now it was easy. It didn’t have to be based on what she felt like eating that particular day, and she didn’t have to weigh the nutritional options each time we went to breakfast. The answer was sausage, end of story. One out of the two choices had to be better than the other for her to feel comfortable ordering it. And she passed that along to us. (And as much as this blog is going to mention my mom, my dad always supported her decisions and positions. He was just never as blatant about it.)

Speaking of sausage, have another example of food policing.

We were at a dinner with family friends, two families and a cookout, a pool, a nice summer evening. The sausage was homemade, which I don’t think I’d ever had before, and I was relaxed, happy, and eating. Dinner had gone on a good long while, too, although a lot of details have gone fuzzy in my memory by now. At some point, after having eaten a serving or two and waiting a little while, I asked my mom to please pass me the plate of sausages.

She told me no.

No, you’ve had too many already. I didn’t really know what to do, mostly because of how quickly awkward the situation was becoming. I tried not to look at our family friends to see how they were judging this interaction, and just repeated my request.

Please pass the plate, I’m still hungry. I won’t have a bun with it, will that make it okay? I’ll only have half of one, will that make it okay?

I think at that point, she relented, probably out of embarrassment because of how I was making her look. I’m sure I was embarrassing her with my gluttonous behavior. But I was 18 or 19 by then, and for the first time, she was embarrassing ME by trying to control my food intake. If we’d been at home instead of at friends’, I bet I never would have gotten the extra half a sausage. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to ask for it.


  1. I think you might be my long lost sister, somehow we shared the same food controlling mother. :)

    You were way braver than I was by insisting on your half of a sausage, I barely eat in front of my parents now and I'm nearly 40, much less to have asked for more food when I was a teenager.

    I just love your blog. Thanks for writing.

  2. Thanks for the comment - it's encouraging to know I can maybe help someone else work through some of the same stuff.

    I credit the FA movement for any and all of my bravery. I started getting into it a little before I left for college, so that would have been the first summer I knew that there were people out there who WEREN'T dieting and that might be okay.