The year my parents applied for a travel visa to visit West Germany was the year they decided that we would not come back to Poland. Shortly before the application we bought a Polonez (a name inspired by the dance polonaise and chosen through a readers' poll conducted by the Życie Warszawy newspaper) – a car designed by Fiat for the Polish market. I was squeezed in between the front seats on the way to a world defined by capitalism. While I wasn't really sure where we were going, the song "Alles hat ein Ende nur die Wurst hat zwei" ("Everything has an end, only the sausage has two") by Stephan Remmler was playing on the radio. A break up song. So in the assortment of German vocabulary for my first trip out of a communist country was the word Wurst, meaning sausage. I can not recall that we ate a lot of Kielbasa in Poland nor Wurst in Germany but somehow it was important to know from the beginning.
But meat, fruit or vegetables were not what was interesting to us about the West. Polish agriculture had always provided us with local, healthy foods. Today you can still find this informal shadow economy in action, as described in the book Shadow Architecture by architect Aleksandra Wasilowska. In temporary structures, farmers and street vendors sell potatoes, raspberries, honey or tomatoes in city centres or on countryside streets. The best tomatoes I ever had came from Poland. My Polish uncle always says the West had to invent the label "Bio" while the Poles always had a Bio-lifestyle.
I think access to vast amounts of packaged foods in supermarkets may have been one of the reasons we stayed in West Germany. It was the possibility of choice: walking into a place where you could get what you wanted, and often more than you needed. I vividly remember the sensation of opening the lid of a Philadelphia cream cheese, stripping away the metallic foil for the first time and putting my tongue into that bleached silky texture. I wasn't sure how it was made, but I knew it tasted forbidden. So I wanted it badly.
Fast forward to adulthood when I encountered the sauzijn broodje in the Netherlands, a snack of undefined meat in pastry; bangers and mash, referring to a simple white sausage served with mashed potatoes in the UK; the pillow shaped Alaminos longganisa from the Philippines; and the Cervelat, the most popular sausage in Switzerland. Once I mentioned to the design critic and curator Vera Sacchetti that there might be a national sausage, or some symbolism related to sausages, in every country and she invited me to speak at The Edge of Knowledge (TEOK), an informal speaker series hosted in the living rooms of Basel. It was then that I began to look for all kinds of material on sausages for my Sausigety presentation.
Sausages are the first designed food. The sausage, specifically the skin, or casing, was invented to preserve raw meat without a refrigerator. The designer Carolien Niebling describes it as "one of mankind's greatest edible inventions" in her project "The Sausage of the Future," in which she re-invented the sausage as a plant-based product:"a shell for all kinds of nutrition". Peanut butter sandwich sausage, anyone?
One day Ted X Basel calls. They had heard that I had a quick knowledge of design-related topics and asked me to speak at their event. We discussed a few options and they said they would get back to me. When they did they asked me to speak about Sausigety. They had heard about my informal talk and were convinced this would be the perfect theme for the next edition of Ted X Basel. I declined. When they asked me why I answered: "Would you be interested in becoming the sausage lady?" The Internet does not forget, especially not sausage.
- Things Might
is a column about the designed environment and how it sometimes becomes, often hurts, occasionally explodes and usually takes by Matylda Krzykowski. Her top three favourite foods are beetroot, ginger and eggs. She consumes up to 20 eggs per week: either boiled or as Kogel Mogel, a dessert made of raw egg yolks and sugar.
Project: The Future Sausage by ECAL/Carolien Niebling
Photo: Emile Barret