The Sausage

After every day’s session on the vertical board, a stretcher bearer wheels me from the rehabilitation room and parks me next to my bed, where I wait for the nurse’s aides to swing me back between the sheets. And every day, since by now it is noon, the same stretcher bearer wishes me a resolutely cheerful “Bon appetit” ---- his way of saying “See you tomorrow.” .And of course, to.wish me a hearty appetite is about the same as saying “Merry Christmas” on August 15 or.“Good night” in the broad daylight. .In the last eight months I have swallowed nothing save a few drops of lemon-flavored water and a half teaspoon of yogurt, which gurgled noisily down my windpipe. The feeding test—as they grandly called this banquet—was not a success. But no call for alarm: I haven’t starved. By means of a tube threaded into my stomach, two or three bags of a brownish fluid provide my daily caloric needs.

For pleasure, I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustible reservoir of sensations. Once, I was a master at recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories. You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it’s a restaurant, no need to call ahead. If I do the cooking, it is always a success. The boeuf bourguignon is tender, the boeu f en gele is translucent, the apricot pie possesses just the requisite tartness. Depending on my mood, I treat myself to a dozen snails, a plate of Alsatian sausage with sauerkraut, and a bottle of late-vintage golden Gewurztraminer; or else I savor a simple soft-boiled egg with fingers of toast and lightly salted butter. What a banquet! The yolk flows warmly over my palate and down my throat. And indigestion is never a problem. Naturally, I use the finest ingredients: the freshest vegetables, fish straight from the water, the most delicately marbled meat. Everything must be done right. Just to make sure, a friend sent me the recipe for authentic homemade sausage, andouillette de Troyes, with three different kinds of meat braided in strips . Also, I scrupulously observe the rhythm of the seasons. Just now I am cooling my taste buds with melon and red fruit. I leave oysters and game for the autumn—should I feel like eating them, for I am becoming careful, even ascetic, in matters of diet. At the outset of my protracted fast, deprivation sent me constantly to my imaginary larder. I was gluttonous. But today I could almost be content with a good old proletarian hard sausage trussed in netting and suspended permanently from the ceiling in some corner of my head. A knobby Lyons rosette, for example, very dry and coarsely chopped. Every slice melts a little on your tongue before you start chewing to extract all its flavor. The origin of my addiction to sausage goes back forty years. Although still at an age for candy, I already preferred delicatessen meats, and my maternal grandfather’s nurse noticed that whenever I visited the gloomy apartment on the Boulevard Raspail, I would ask her in a beguiling lisp for sausage. Skilled at indulging the desires of children and the elderly, she eventually pulled off a double coup, giving me a sausage and marrying my grandfather just before he died. My joy at receiving such a gift was in direct proportion to the annoyance the unexpected nuptials caused my family. I have only the vaguest picture of my grandfather: supine and stern-faced in the gloom, resembling Victor Hugo’s portrait on the old five-hundred-franc notes in use at the time. I have a much clearer memory of that sausage lying incongruously among my Dinky Toys and picture books.

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