Homemade Liver Sausage (An American Family Moment)
Suzie Worley hated liver. That included liver sausage. She was standing in the back room of her grandparents’ one-hundred and thirty-year-old meat market. It was now her market, handed down through the generations.
Almost daily she thought about closing the doors and selling the antiquated market despite continued faithful patronage. She had hoped Karly, her eighteen-year-old daughter, would become her apprentice and then take over the business when Suzie was no longer able to physically manage. Her daughter showed no interest in the family business and refused to help in the shop.
Times have changed, Suzie thought. She always knew she would fall in line with the family business. Suzie, like her own mother, understood the importance of family pride, responsibilities and tradition. That was why weekly, despite hating liver sausage, Suzie found herself in the back of the meat market pumping out and stuffing fifty-two pounds of liver sausage.
“Eat your liver sausage,” Suzie remembered her mother mumbling through lips that didn’t move. Her mother didn’t like liver sausage either. They were seated around the silver and red Formica kitchen table for another day of liver sausage and eggs over-easy with toast just shy of black, along with her father and maternal grandmother. It was 1965.
“Just place it in the center of your tongue,” her mother continued, “and you’ll hardly taste it.” Her mother’s eyes widened and darted from Suzie to her grandmother. It was face language for, your grandmother is watching; eat your sausage.
“Oh dear, Oh dear, I’ve ruined another lovely blouse,” Her grandmother commented after dribbles landed on the cleavage area of her blouse. She grabbed her napkin and failed in her attempt to remedy the situation. All Suzie’s grandmother’s blouses where stained in liver sausage dribbles.
“My mother had the same problem when she ate liver sausage.” Her grandmother chuckled. “Well, it was worth it. Jesus himself couldn’t have…” Suzie mouthed the remainder of the sentence as her grandmother spoke. “… made liver sausage this good even if he used a miracle.”
No one had the heart to tell her grandmother that the pork in liver sausage is an abomination to God based on the Jewish tradition. Her beloved Jesus was a Jew and would be appalled if Mary and Martha served him liver sausage.
“Smother it in the fried onions and ketchup,” her father mumbled. Suzie estimated her father ate enough fried onions and ketchup to keep migrant, onion pickers and the Heinz ketchup company going single handedly.
She didn’t bother. It wouldn’t help. Once again Suzie slid the sausage under the table to her basset hound, Speedy. He liked liver sausage and ate a lot of it. This probably had more do to with his early death from heart failure than anything else, Suzie always thought.
1973 was the year Suzie graduated from Kemper Senior High School. She was going to drive her father’s old, mint-green, ’62 Dodge Dart with the big steering wheel and very un-cool side fins, to California. Since his stroke, it collected dust in the garage.
For months she secretly sent resumes to cruise ships berthed on the west coast for waitress positions. She was going to get as far away from the meat market as she could. She hated liver sausage and the family business. There was no way she was staying to rot and die like her grandparents and now parents. There was a world to see and it didn’t include liver sausage.
“California!” Suzie’s mother yelled. “When were you going to tell me this grand plan of yours?”
Suzie pulled her headband further back on her head so her elbow-length, brown hair stayed behind her ears. It was a nervous habit. They were standing next to the old extruder, caked in oil and cooked pate remnants. A sausage casing hung from the nozzle.
“I can’t stay here, Mom!” She pleaded, crossed her arms over her chest and flopped down on a worn, wooden bench against the wall. She hoped her mother would understand.
Her mother hated liver sausage and the meat shop too. Suzie was well aware of this. Thanks to her grandmother. Grandma had no difficulty reminding Suzie’s mother in front of Suzie about the squabbles they had over family business vs running away to nursing school. The family business had won.
In Suzie’s eyes, the store had been her grandparent’s and no one alive wanted it. No one dead cared. Suzie could feel the tears welling in her eyes. She couldn’t believe her mother wasn’t getting it.
“Your grandparents saved their money to come to this country and buy this shop,” her mother said with a catch in her throat. “Hell, that liver sausage recipe goes back generations before them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got it from Jesus!”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Her mother turned away and wrung her hands on an apron she was wearing. It was floral with ruffles at the shoulders and once belonged to Suzie’s grandmother.
“I need you here,” said her mother. There was a moment of silence between them. “We need to get five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings from the refrigerator.”
Suzie felt her world come to an end. She thought, why did I bother to go to school, play the clarinet or get good grades? If my whole life is going to be this stupid meat shop, there is no sense in living anymore.
She had watched her grandparents slave over the machines, pumping out liver sausages. Watched her parents, who hated liver sausage, do the very same thing. It wasn’t a business. To her, it was a curse.
Karly, Suzie’s daughter, bust into the back of the meat market letting the door slam closed behind her. Suzie was startled from her reminiscing.
“I hate this crap, Mom!” Karly declared. She flopped herself down, arms crossed, onto a worn, wooden bench against the wall. Just like Suzie had done so many years ago.
Suzie realized she had become her mother, a thought that nearly paralyzed her. Maybe, times had not changed so much after all. “Then why are you here?” She asked her daughter. She opened up the refrigerator to pull out five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings.
“If I didn’t come help you, I’d feel guilty as hell. That’s why. I hate when you put me on a guilt trip.” She fidgeted causing the wooden bench to wobble. “Why are you here, Mom? You hate this stuff and this market too.”
Suzie paused inside the refrigerator door. The smell of raw meat once again caused queasiness. Her mother and grandmother were long dead. She remembered her own thoughts when having this conversation with her mother. No one alive wants it. No one dead cares. She shut the refrigerator door.
She wondered how many Worley women needed to devote their lives to ideas and traditions because the generation before had done so. Maybe, it wasn’t about tradition, pride or responsibility. Perhaps it was time to allow independent thinking in the family.
Suzie took off her apron and quietly hung it on the rusted nail that had held it for many decades. She ripped off a piece of cardboard from an empty, pickle jar box. “Do you have a marker?”
Karly looked at Suzie confused. She shrugged her shoulders, grabbed her back-pack set at her feet and pulled out a black marker. She stood and gave it to Suzie.
Suzie wrote on the cardboard in big, bold letters, CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. She pulled some meat-packing tape and walked out into the market front with Karley at her side. She tapped the sign to the front door and turned to her daughter.
“I think we’re over due for a meeting of the minds over coffee. What do you think?”
Posted on April 3, 2013, in An American Family Moment and tagged abominations, American, business, coffee, daughter, dog, family, generations, grandmother, homemade, Jesus, liver sausage, meat market, responsibility, talk, tradition. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.