The Traveller’s Viaticum

« Caterpillar becomes butterfly and pig becomes sausage, it’s nature’s law. » François Cavanna

Next time Stephan serves saucisson du marin – dry-cured neck of pork similar to coppa or capocollo* – appetizers, don’t wolf them down voraciously, take a minute to look one straight in the eye. What you are staring at is a treasure of humanity. Almost unchanged since the Bronze age, dry sausage fared, through time and space, before landing on your plate.

Since its humble beginnings, this antique viaticum, has always been a must for travelling. Pharaoh Ramses III packed some for his biggest and last journey to the other world. In the dear boy’s pyramid, on a wall painting depicting a kitchen scene, sausages happily dry on perches. In Homer’s Odyssey – the strong and virile saga overflowing with testosterone –, when they are not busy being shipwrecked, blinding cyclops or seducing the girls, Ulysses and his companions smoke hashish and eat sausages. And they are not the only devotees of this delicatessen. One of Athenaeus’ scoops reveals that Nabuchodonosor II, King of Babylon, was a salami freak!

A few thousand years later, our dry sausage made it to space, aboard Mir station. To welcome American astronaut Peter Wisoff and his team in January 1997, their Russian colleges fixed them something to eat. And there, with the usual “tubes and cubes” food, was some real salami for the newcomers. A first in the galaxy, much to the Americans’ delight.

Amaze your guests, with these elegant little marvels:

Micheline’s œufs cocotte

Preheat oven to 210C/425F/Gas7. Warm up 100 gr crème fraiche on low heat, make sure it doesn’t boil. Put one tablespoon into 4 ramekins. Crack an egg into each ramekin, add 2 slices saucisson du marin and spoon over the remaining cream. Season with a generous grinding of black pepper.

Stand the ramekins in an oven dish and pour in enough hot water to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the dishes. Cook on the middle shelf of the oven for about 7 to 8 minutes; the white should be set, with the yolk still soft. Garnish with a lovely little basil leaf.

Thierry’s dry sausage crisps

To make these terrible temptations – be warned, once you start eating them, you can’t stop –slice a saucisson du marin thinly. Heat some lard in a frying pan and quickly dip the slivers before putting them under the grill for a few seconds. As soon as they are crispy, remove and place on a plate with kitchen paper. Wait for these marvels to cool before serving them with pride.

*You’ll find them in most Italian delicatessens

To learn everything you want to know about dry sausage, devour Éloge du saucisson