ANOTHER VIEW: The paradox of canned meat | Columnists |

2022-08-08 05:48:24 By : Ms. Kathy Lin

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Scattered thunderstorms, especially in the morning. High 87F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 40%..

A few clouds from time to time. Low 69F. Winds light and variable.

I can no longer pretend.

Yes, I have season tickets to Broadway in Atlanta, and I love PBS.

I know the difference between a mandolin and a mandoline.

The U.S. economy is now more than a year into a run of soaring inflation, and one category that has been dramatically affected is vehicles—both by supply constraints and demand-side factors, like aggressive government stimulus and high consumer spending. The increase in car prices has been p… Click for more.

The library is my favorite place.

Yes, I have traveled to Europe more than once, and I can read a tide chart.

I have eaten escargot and pho.

But my thin veneer of sophistication melts in a minute when faced with the summer season and tomato sandwiches. White bread is a given, bacon is nice, lettuce and onion, and cheese are okay, but not absolutely necessary.

In fact, just make mine with gobs of mayo, soft white bread, plenty of black pepper, garden fresh tomatoes, and Vienna Sausages on the side.

I understand that Vienna Sausages are an invented food. Made of scraps of meat leftover from the butchering process: beaks, gristle, bone and sinew. And even worse, this processed food is glued together with fat, salt and sugar. My taste buds and my memory buds refuse to acknowledge this truth. My brain buds ignore it. Besides Vienna Sausages don’t look scary, like pickled pigs feet do.

I used to think Vienna Sausages were invented in Vienna, Ga., where my Uncle Leon lived in an unpainted gray house smack in the middle of a snowy cotton field. When we visited, I looked for a factory that squirted out my perfect little sausages, but Uncle Leon said, “They might make them over in Cordele, but not here in Vienna… that I know of.”

I learned about Vienna, Austria, in fourth grade geography. But these slick little delicacies are not from that European city either. Austria is known for its sausages, but the Vienna Sausage that I crave was invented by American businessmen in 1903, to increase profits by using and selling waste parts of cows, chickens and pigs. They were purposely upscaled with the name and were the subject of intensive ad campaigns.

They were developed in a food lab to be canned and sent around the world supporting wars, colonialism or just expanded markets, but they were also gussied up in magazine ads to make them appear desirable to the American homemakers of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Fancy sauces and accompaniments were suggested. They were touted as the main meat in a meal that would please the father coming in the door hungry. Ads showed obviously rich people eating Vienna Sausages on toothpicks at cocktail parties.

Once, on a family vacation to an isolated cabin near Shellman Bluff, on Georgia’s wild coast, I drove 20 miles to buy a can of Vienna Sausages. I wrote an entire column about this grocery journey back in the ’80s: 10 miles to the nearest convenience store and 10 miles back. The rest of my family was OK with tomato, mayo and bread but I wanted the comfort of my favorite, salty, addictive Vienna Sausages. But when I got back to the cabin with my haul, my family had eaten without me. They had left me one little knobby tomato.

I no longer need to drive 10 miles, for a VS fix, but I do have to read labels carefully. Food labels claim to offer healthier versions. Vienna Sausages are now sold barbecued, olive oiled, all beef, and desaltified. I look for the label that says “original,” and “original” is near enough to my growing up fare on Pea Hill.

In winter, when real tomatoes don’t exist, I eat Vienna Sausages with pork and beans, or pimiento cheese, because part of their appeal is the way they are packed. Round bites in a round can. I peel the lid back and that is preparation: finished! Except, sometimes, it is hard to shake them out of their little tin carrier.

In her food blog, “Indestructible Foods,” Sara Dudek writes that “All food has permanence. But nonperishable food has a different kind of lasting power.” She says that foods like SPAM and Vienna Sausages are good examples of “food that is engineered to persist. On shelves, and in pantries, but also in memory.”

Dudek also reminded me in a recent post that it is unkind to demean food choices from other cultures. She said, “We absorb our tastes from our families,” and she said, “your comfort foods lag behind your financial position by at least a generation.”

So, thank you Sara Dudek, I refuse to be ashamed.

My pretend sophistication and my hillbilly food choices can certainly exist side-by-side. But it might make me feel better if I serve my Vienna Sausages on a toothpick.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at

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