Hanging Out in Rockford: Making sausages and other things—A wonderful gentleman

By Mike Leifheit


My experience at Eichmann’s is the absolute opposite of my experience at Grant Park Packing. A man looks up from his desk and says, “What kind of sausage are you making?” I tell him several kinds, and that I am just learning, but that I want to make a brat and that I would like to smoke it. “Are you the guy that is writing about it in the paper?” he asks. I reply that I am and that I own the Irish Rose. He introduces himself as Mike Eichmann.

We go on to talk about various aspects of sausage making. I tell him I want to hot-smoke to 140. “148,” he replies, then it is a cooked product, but it won’t change the juiciness or texture appreciably. He has given me what I would think is a secret, but he seems very unsecretive about it. I remember that José determined the temperature of the Italian was 150 when it was cooked perfectly. We are learning by doing.

I ask him if I can write about my visit to his business, and he says it is OK if I just mention the fact that he is in the Cured Meat Hall of Fame. I promise to do so. We walk out to the front room, where he hands me the tiniest packet of pink powder called Prague powder, (probably for Prague in the Czech Republic). This, he says, will cure 100 pounds of meat. The cost is a buck, and I nearly forget to pay him.

On the way back to Rockford, I get a call from Gerlinde. “Are we still going to meet,” she wants to know. I tell her I am tired and suggest we meet for lunch at Cru the next day. Later that night, after a couple of Irish whiskeys, I include Jonathon and Elise in on the luncheon meeting. It proves to be a really good idea.

The next day, Elise and Jonathon show up at my apartment just before noon to have lunch. As we walk the few steps down the street to Cru, my phone rings. “That’s Gerlinde,” I say, and ignore it. We walk in to Cru to find her with the phone to her ear. After a few moments of decision-making, we are settled in with big glasses of wine in front of us and sandwiches coming, and we start to talk.

At first, we engage in casual conversation, but then I get serious. I tell them that the reason I am calling this continued column “Making sausages and other things,” is because of the constant drone by the mainstream press that there are two things you don’t want to see made—sausages and laws. I want to use sausage-making as an illustration of process and compare it to the health insurance controversy. We learn anything by trying and failing and constant re-application until we finally get it right. Without failure, there is no success.

We talk about the mass media and its failure to really look into the question. The conservatives constantly say socialist medicine is bad and will result in waiting lines and poor service. But both Gerlinde and I know from our personal experience that this simply isn’t true. Gerlinde has recently buried both her mother and father in Germany. In both cases, the doctor came to their house every other day. She said that occasionally the nurse would call to say the doctor would have to come by late after he did rounds at the hospital, but that he always came. We all have a good laugh about that awful socialist medicine, where the doctors come to your house.

My son lives in Budapest, and when he had a hernia operation, there was no bill. Harvard University medical school did a study that says the Canadian system is much better than ours. But our conservative friends will lie and tell you there are long waiting lines in Canada. In actuality, it is the most popular governmental program in Canada. Canadians live, on the average, four years longer than we do. So much for putting Granny on the short list.

It’s about money and stupidity. The big-money people appeal to the petty prejudices of the dumb people. Like a magician, they wave their right hand and say—“Look at those two gay people over there. They want to get married.”—while they quietly slip the cash in their pockets with their left.

I call my congressman’s office to support health reform. He replies with a letter. The second line says he doesn’t want to support a health law that gets between me and my doctor. I angrily call his office again and tell his assistant that who is between me and my doctor is Blue Cross/Blue Shield. That when I had my heart attack, if Jen Bunjan hadn’t known the system and called for approval, I would have been stuck for the bill, even though I had been paying for health insurance. I tell her I will no longer vote for Don Manzullo, even though, in spite of being a Democrat, I have many times before.

More next week.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the September 30 – October 6, 2009 issue.

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