Walter Mencken 2:02 p.m., May 23
Carla’s gonna faint.
She’s the hot dog guru. Knows her kielbasas from her bratwursts, her American mustards from her French.
What happens is I’m at the Festival of Sail...
...between the Star of India and the long arcade of food and craft tents stretching north from the Star of India and the Maritime Museum of San Diego (1492 North Harbor Drive, 619-234-09153).
It’s late afternoon. Jes’ yakking with this guy Wolfgang Faller. He’s built himself what he calls the “Miniflower,” a tenth-scale version of the Mayflower. Beautiful. And he can actually get in and sail it.
So we’re talking when I get this whiff. Oh Lord. Not salty sea breeze, but sexy sabroso sausage smells wafting from the food tents.
That’s it. Eyes glaze over, go into trance, follow twitching nostrils, find myself in front of this hot open grill searing a Technicolor logjam of golden, white and almost black sausages. They glisten, and if you listen, you can hear them calling “Choose me! Get me off this grill!”
Two guys, Mike and Dave from Fallbrook...
...are busy with tongs rolling the suckers around so they cook evenly.
“What’s it to be?” says Dave.
I ask him to help me decide.
“This is the half-pound kielbasa,” he says, pointing to the largest, darkest sausage. “Rope sausage, $8. This is the beer sausage, with Stone Smoked Porter in it. It’s $7.”
Most are third-pounders. He goes through the still-pale Polish ($5.50), the smooth Bratwurst ($7), the Cajun hot links ($7) and the beef hot dogs ($4).
Dave turns out to be a happy guy. “I was a data processing manager for a bank,” he says. “Decided to break out.” His wife Aida and he run this, basically BBQ-type catering business. “Aida started it,” he says. “I learned to cook, and now I get all over the county. I’ve got a life!”
And good food, by the smell of these sausages.
I figure these are big enough to make a meal, so I get one kielbasa and one beer sausage. Dave loads sauerkraut aboard, grinds some chopped onion on the bun...
...I squeeze brown mustard and presto. Instant meal.
’Course I’d love to eat mine now, while it’s fresh and hot, but Dave wraps them in foil...
...tucks them in a plastic bread bag, and when I get back, the oven does a pretty good job of bringing them back to life. Carla’s thrilled.
Irony is, she loves the beer dog best. I’m happy to tackle the giant kielbasa.
“I almost got you the Polish,” I say.
“Because it was the cheapest one, I’ll bet,” she says. “And I’ve got news for you: you’re eating the Polish. ‘Kielbasa’ is just the Polish word for sausage. Or Ukranian.”
“Wow. How’d you know that?”
“My daddy knew sausages. We ate out a lot. Like outside, over a camp fire. I’ve had hot dogs in 48 states. That was my childhood.”
Wow. Makes you realize. After how long? You think you know someone, then they spring a life of 48 hot dogs from 48 states on you. We'll never run out of conversation, that's for sure.
Dave's hot dog stand, Matheny Wagon Works (760-518-1386) gets around farmers’ markets, caters anywhere, and will be at the Festival of Sail till 6:30 tonight (Sunday), and from noon till around 5:30 p.m. Monday.