Polish Sausage, Grape Jelly, and Fleeting Relationships

I decided recently to make some life changes. I quit my day job and rented my house for the next six months. Hell, the economy sucks, so I figure six months of not being tied down by a mortgage will give me the freedom to travel and eat and not stress so much.

Don't get too excited. I didn't quit this writing gig.

Let's make it clear that I hate moving! It's funny how, after living in the same house for a long time, people tend to collect so much stuff, most of it useless. For example, I have five sets of salt-and-pepper mills/shakers. My favorite one is a squirrel holding two nuts — one for salt, the other for pepper.

While packing, I also found boxes of old pictures. I especially like the ones with the tie-dyes and long hair — back in the days when everything I owned could fit in my car. Damn, it also looks like I ate as much as I could fit in my car; does tie-dye make you look fat? I look like I ate Jerry Garcia.

All this reminiscing took me back to some memories of Shelly, an ex from college. Shel came from a quirky (crazy) Chicago Polish-Italian family that would get together and cook intense sausage dishes. This is the gal who taught me to put grape jelly on a bratwurst — hey, don't knock it until you try it! Granted, I smoked enough pot in that relationship to be in a reggae band.

Besides the grape jelly and bong hits, there were also some big hits in the bedroom . . . I mean kitchen. Ohhhh, we had some fun! Eventually, Shelly and I rented a place, and like most relationships (most of mine, anyway), we slowly drifted apart. We didn't communicate enough, especially after the ganja cloud dissipated. By the time it ended, the moans that once emanated from the bedroom had dwindled to an occasional whisper from the kitchen windows.

I used to make a daily habit of finding recipes and buying lots of wine to bring home after work. The last three months of our relationship was a food and wine orgy that left me 15 pounds heavier. Even though I was drifting apart from my lover, I was being drawn to cooking. This stage in my life made me really appreciate food. It made me realize that cooking can be magical! No matter what is going on in your life, food can be that one Band-Aid that makes everything seem okay. It would have been easier to just talk about things, but I was too young, too much of a coward. As it turned out, we loved cooking together more than we loved being together.

Shel and I would cook up a storm, and I found that the more noise I made while eating, the more she loved trying new recipes. The more I'd moan at the table, the better food I'd get. All cooks want to go out of their way to please someone who's passionate about their food. I also found that this approach of being passionately vocal works just as well in the bedroom. Trust me, if you're appreciative in bed and really make a big deal out of being pleased, then get ready for some new spicy dishes between the sheets! (Side note: Don't go off like a $25 hooker and wake up the neighbors. Too noisy = disingenuous. Make some noise, but don't scream like in the cheap porn clips you watch all day at work. You want to be passionate, not a screeching slut bag.)

That reminds me of when a cousin overheard my girlfriend and me making whoopee at his annual bass-fishing tournament a few years ago. Yes, I actually went to an annual bass-fishing tournament, and I got all kinds of shit over breakfast the next day because my girlfriend was prone to howling. Truth is, the awkward part wasn't the fact that I was at a bass-fishing party. The awkward part was that the girl howling was me.

Needless to say, I went through this noisy stage for some time. Fact is, I'm still a little noisy. I try to avoid saying creepy shit like, "You're great; I love your ass," but I do let the mojo flow.

My night of howling didn't help the relationship and, once again, I was a dog without a bone. To cure my blues, I would cook a dish Shel used to make when the going was tough. She could whip up a Polish sausage dish that could make you feel as carefree as the day you bought that quarter bag and your first lava lamp. Plus, it's fun watching someone stuff a sausage in her face.

You simply boil some sauerkraut with fresh-sliced green apples and caraway seeds. Then add a pan-seared Polish sausage and let it simmer for around 20 minutes. Not only will the house smell great, it's guaranteed to taste amazing.

Disclaimer: This is a heavy dish with lots of sauerkraut! I suggest this recipe only if he/she is not going to spend the night. I suggest you invite him/her over for dinner and a movie. Say you have a big day at work in the morning. Stuff your face, watch the movie, fool around — then get them the hell out.

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C.M. Redding
Contact: C.M. Redding