I used to love British breakfast sausages. But now I’m not so keen on them. And English explorer Ranulph Fiennes is to blame.
When I’m in Britain, breakfast is my favorite meal. My British boyfriend cooks up a mean plate of bacon, eggs, sausages and tomatoes. Flavorful, meaty, loin-cut bacon. Not the inferior American variety, which is composed of mostly fat with a few thin streaks of meat. That’s considered a very cheap form of bacon in Britain, called streaky bacon, best for chopping up to add flavor to other dishes rather than having for breakfast.
The best British breakfast sausages are an art form. Just the right balance of pork, breadcrumbs and seasoning. The cheapest ones have too much gristle and filler. My boyfriend is spoiled by having two excellent local butchers within walking distance of his home in the East End of London. One of them sells thick sliced, dry-rub bacon with a flavor to die for. The other butcher offers the perfect sausage. The outside casing fries up nicely blackened and crispy, yet what is inside melts in your mouth.
One British breakfast delicacy I loathe is black pudding, a most unpleasant dark-colored sausage made from pig’s blood, lard and oatmeal, but it remains a cheap, high-protein staple in Britain. My boyfriend loves it, perhaps because of his Irish working-class roots.
At the breakfast table, my boyfriend and I have set up two wooden book stands so that we can read the newspapers (very retro) or a book. I had been reading Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ autobiography, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. He is a hard-core polar adventurer who has been on numerous life-threatening expeditions and holds several endurance records. His cousins, Ralph and Joseph Fiennes found adventure on the silver screen, but Ranulph went for the real thing, even though he almost became a film star too. He was invited to audition for the role of James Bond after Sean Connery left, but the part went to Roger Moore.
I had reached an excruciating section of the autobiography, covering a solo Arctic crossing. Hauling a sledge of supplies, Fiennes falls into freezing water underneath a slab of ice, and needs to remove the mitt from his left hand to be able to untangle the ropes attached to the sled and raise it up from the water. As a result, he gets severe frostbite on his fingers and needs to return to civilization as soon as possible to prevent losing his entire left hand. Fiennes describes the demise of the ends of his fingers in gruesome detail as they become mummified. The dead sections need to be removed, but his surgeon recommends that Fiennes should wait for more healing to occur before he undergoes the amputations. However, the mummified bits cause the hardy adventurer so much pain as they push into whatever living tissue is left, that he takes it upon himself to cut off some of his fingertips. He includes a photo of his, well, I suppose you could call it handiwork. I was struck by how the mummified ends resembled burnt breakfast sausages or black pudding.
After looking at that picture, I found the sausage sitting on my plate to be distinctly unappetizing. Without further ado, I stuck my fork into it and plopped the thing onto my boyfriend’s plate.
I haven’t eaten a single bite of sausage since that fateful time. My attitude was not improved by a story I read in The Daily Telegraph over breakfast a few days later, about a jailed Mafia boss who had bitten off and eaten a guard’s finger. None of this had any effect on my boyfriend, who was happy that my new views on sausages meant that there were more for him. “From now on, you can call them Fienne’s Fingers if you like, “ my boyfriend laughed as he tucked into his breakfast sausages with relish.
And what does Sir Ranulph Fiennes himself think about my complaints? Ever the gracious British gentleman, this is his response: “I am happy CJ likes to read my books but apologise to her for putting her off her sausages due to the finger photos.”
Originally published at https://rentabrit.com on September 9, 2020.