Where’s the meat?

Living in Scotland, I had to overcome the culture shock of what the locals call “sausage.” The German word is “Wurst” and believe you me, sausage and Wurst are soooo not the same. When you say Wurst, it means meat. Packed tightly into natural or artificial intestines, with herbs and spices, cured or smoked. Either in slices for sandwiches or whole for the grill. But above all, it’s meat. Tasty.

Enter the sausage. Or “emulsified high fat offal tube,” as one popular TV-show called it. And boy, where they right. Where’s the meat? I knew what I was getting, having had a full Scottish breakfast on numerous occasions before I moved here. But still, I felt and feel cheated. Those “tubes” are filled with – what exactly? A lot of grits, a lot more fat, punchy spices that create the illusion of taste, and still not enough meat to make up for any of it. And it’s not just Britain, I’m afraid. When I had my first ever Bangers & Mash while living in Ireland, I thought the cook had given me the vegetarian option by mistake. Where’s the meat? And don’t get me started on taste…

You can say about Europe what you like – as an institution, it definitely has its flaws. Europe the culinary place, on the other hand, is mindblowing. The choices alone in all four corners of the continent can keep you busy for quite some time. And Britain profited from it in countless ways, and I’m not even talking economics and imports and taxes here. This island was introduced to a cuisine it could only dream of, and not just by the Italian diner down the road or the French delicatessen one’s manager keeps talking about. Ever had a Krakauer fresh from the grill at a Christmas fair? Tried Salami de Cinghiale at the Farmers’ Market? When was the last dinner party you went to (pre-Covid) that didn’t serve Prosciutto as a starter?

I’m not saying European food is superior per se. (Except in the case of sausages.) But it absolutely broadened the British food horizons and enhanced the typical British menu of fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, pork roast and curry to go, with the occiasional haggis thrown in if you are in Scotland. And that alone was worth being a part of it.

And now say good-bye to Panchetta, Saucisson Sec and Bratwurst.

Oh, and if you happen to live in Northern Ireland, you’re truly stuffed.

Because the UK will no longer let anyone import these tasty delights come next year. And it is of course all the EU’s fault. That is, if you want to believe the Brexiteer outrage that came with the news.

A little bit of background: By law & EU regulations, uncooked prepared meat cannot be imported into the EU unless it is frozen to -18C. That stops pretty much all UK exports of sausage meat (still a misnomer, IMHO), burger mince, poultry, etc. It is worth a few million quid each year but come 1 January impossible, because the UK will be a third country, most of this type of product is chilled and there are no export/import certificates available, only for the frozen stuff. By law and UK regulations, the same applies to uncooked prepared meat coming from Europe to be imported into the UK. Because the Powers That Be rolled over European law and replicated the European food safety standards in UK law for now.

So – no more waferthin Italian ham that melts in the mouth, no more German Bratwurst ready for the grill, or French walnut Salami where the smell alone gets you salivating. The supermarkets only just rearranged their shelving system to accommodate customer flow under Corona conditions; now they will have to redo it all over again the replace the “Continental Meats” aisle. (With what exactly?!)

But the real cracker of the situation: Northern Ireland cannot receive prepared meat from the UK (Northern Ireland Protocol) or the Republic of Ireland (reciprocal law). If anyone got properly shafted in this, it’s those six counties. Seriously, how is this going to work for them?

On the other hand, given how the DUP behaved in this entire shambles, may be it’s just fair that they find themselves in that position. However, it’s not fair that all others in Ulster have to suffer with them. Where’s the meat?

But the worst part is the idiocy of those that turned this into UK law without even looking. Did anyone read this particular set of regulations BEFORE it was enacted? Think about the consequences? Have an inkling of an idea of what that might look like in reality?

On the other hand, I shouldn’t be surprised. Brexit is the gift that keeps on giving, and the Westminster populace was never known for thinking things through. Maybe it will dawn on them when their favourite hang-out finally runs out of foie gras…