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SANDWICH TWO: So here I am, nicely filled with a tawny cheese, sweet pear, seedy sourdough, and Starbucks coffee. Yet something about that sign across Washington Street hauls me out of my seat.
"Sausage King," it says.
I cross Washington and head to this place that has most of its sidewalk frontage bricked up. I haul the door open and discover...wow. A little piece of Old Europe. The place drips with traditional food products, in tins, in bottles, on shelves. German smoked meat, continental crackers and chocolates, different rye breads, canned German soups, Norwegian caviar paste, cabinets filled with meat, and above all, German sausages: sausage links hanging from racks, sausages filling display cases, sausages against the back wall.
Then I realize there's someone behind the counter. An older woman.
"We make everything here," she says.
"You make the sausages, the smoked meats?"
"Everything. And we don't use fillers. No cereals in our sausages, just meat. Ask my husband."
She's a slim woman. Her name is Charlotte. Says she and her husband Manfred came from Germany via Canada. "We came to San Diego for our honeymoon. After Winnipeg -- nine months winter, three months mosquitoes -- this was paradise. So we set up here. Forty-three years ago."
I've gotta try this stuff. "Uh, I was wondering if I could sit down and eat," I say. But Charlotte shakes her head. "We don't serve the food. We just sell it."
Then she thinks again. "Well, actually we sell our meat in bread. It's ready to eat. But it's 'to go' only."
I guess I could sit over at Starbucks again. Charlotte directs me towards the display cabinet filled with the wursts, smaller sausages, and luncheon meats. "Have any of them in your sandwich. Would you like liverwurst? It takes us a whole day to make that. We have to cook it, grind it, flavor it. Or blood sausages? Or salami? We make and dry them here. They take several days. If you notice, hot southern countries make dry sausages like salami. Cooler northern countries make fresh or semi-fresh sausages. Cold weather helps give lasting power."
Turns out Manfred makes 34 different sausages and luncheon meats, plus 10 different smoked meats like turkey, beef, Westphalian ham, black forest ham, and even bacon.
Charlotte says the recipes for curing all these meats has always been kept within his family as a secret. "Fred's family were farmers," she says. "They always made their own sausages, to their own recipe."
Those recipes must have worked. People are constantly coming in and buying, often speaking German. "It's mostly Europeans who appreciate our sausages," Charlotte says. "Also Filipinos, and Americans who were in the military and spent time based in Germany."
Me, I'm working up courage to try one of the blood sausages in my sandwich.
"Try the liverwurst," Charlotte advises. "It's rich and tasty."
"Fine," I say, just as Manfred comes around the corner.
"Want to see how we make the sausages while you're waiting?" he asks. He takes me through to the room behind, Ah, now I see why the frontage was bricked off. All the cutters, mincers, and sausage-stuffing machines are in here. "We can process 10,000 pounds of sausage a day here, if we need to. But that doesn't happen anymore. We're down to this one place again. We did at one time build up to five."
Part of the trouble is that there are no more slaughterhouses in San Diego. "We lost six of them. Now, no more sides of beef. We have to get meat delivered in boxes down from North Dakota."
We pass great, blackened smoke rooms, with the sawdust of hickory in a channel on the floor, ready to smoke again tonight.
Back in the shop, he points to a bunch of sausages on a rack prepared for smoking. "Landjeger," he says. "It means 'Country hunter,' which means 'country police.' In France they call them 'gendarmes.' They were developed a long time ago in Switzerland as easy food for the police to take on treks into the mountains. It's like American Indians' beef jerky."
Fred says most of his sausages are still encased in sheep's and pigs' intestines. "These wieners are in intestines from New Zealand sheep."
'Course I'm not really thinking when I ask how come wieners are called "wieners."
"Because they were created in Vienna," he says. "Wien in German. Frankfurters in Frankfurt, Bologna from Bologna, Italy, Salami from the ancient Greek city Salamis..."
"Sausages are an ancient food," says Charlotte, as she wraps my sandwich. "Babylonians served sausage meat 3500 years ago. They were high-status food in ancient times."
She hands me my liverwurst. "That's $2.25."
Wow, history and lunch for $2.25. Not only that, but Fred insists on giving me a couple of landjegers. "Just to make sure you don't starve on the way back to civilization," he says.
I chew into them -- rich inside -- as I wait to cross the light at Washington and Falcon. That these two could survive in the age of Boar's Head and Kraft is pretty amazing.
Back at Starbucks, my cup is still sitting on the counter. Great. I whip it 'round and ask for a refill. Fifty cents. Save a buck. I cruise back out to the sidewalk and tuck into the liverwurst. It's thick, oozing out of the crisp-shelled German-style bun. I try to concentrate on the taste, 'cause, honestly, all I can think about is the wonder of my two great discoveries -- Gina, scouring the world for her 600 cheeses, and Manfred and Charlotte, recreating the wide world of sausages right there in their kitchen. And both offering up these gut-filling samples so cheap.
'Course eating them still depends on Starbucks. Must remember to tip the guy.