We read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle during my junior year of high school and as much as I can still recall my empathic frustration over Jurgis and his 100-dollar bill, the grim and horrific descriptions of the stock yards and the meat processing were pretty much lost on me (something about people being in the sausage? nothing's ringing a bell). I can't say I have ever been picky about the cleanliness of my food: in fact, that same year in high school, my best friend and I would cruise campus during lunch time looking for discarded school-issued meals to eat from when we were low on lunch money but too lazy to pack lunches from home. We had standards about what we scavenged and swore off of it completely when Subway had their 99-cent meatball sub special (I think I was up to three a day at one point). Although this all took place in Los Angeles, my moving near Chicago to go to graduate school certainly reminded me of The Jungle, although I was more anxious to try my first genuine Chicago Dog than research the labor or hygeine history of its own Vienna Beef (on an important side note: I will always be a fan of Nathan's first and foremost).
All of this is lead-up to explain why I have been absent from my blog for a while. Last Saturday my roommate R and I planned a braai (South African term for bbq) and were on Pine Street in downtown Durban stopping off at an errand when we saw the giant sign for CHICAGO MEATS bearing down at us from across the street. R suggested we see what they had for the braai and I thought it was a perfect choice, if only for a nostalgic connection to my recent residence in Illinois. Most of the cuts of meat were... unfamiliar to me, so we settled on a kilogram of boervors, or "farmer's sausage." Leave it to me to be done in by the local version of a hot dog. I suppose I should have wondered at the quality of such a meat since I got a kilo of it for the equivalent of about $3 US. I suppose I should have questioned its quality when it began to spit and hiss into the fire, creating an amount of smoke we feared would summon the fire department. I suppose I should haven't eaten so much with gusto when I poked it off the braai, gnarled, oversized, and resembling a questionable Slim Jim (I suppose my close friends would know semblance to a Slim Jim is hardly a deterrent for me).
The moral of the story? My American intestinal flora (despite the probiotics I have been taking since a month prior to my departure) was no match for that mighty boervors. Cut to me, three days later, outside of a bank with J and M narfing hot cross bun and Sprite all over the pavement. I tried to deny it for a day or two, but that vors got the best of me. Or maybe the vorst.