To enjoy one of the signature dishes of Goan cuisine you literally have to tear the insides out. The Goan sausage does not arrive on the plate in its original form which resembles a long, soft cylinder rolled into a spiral. There is no such thing as simply frying it up for the Goan sausage. First the cook has to slit open the cover and toss the insides of the sausage over some onion slices which have been simmered previously in additional oil.
Underweight people might want to add potato slices for extra nourishment… anyway the Goan sausage offers a sumptuous collection of morsels surrounded by a dark red spice mix. You definitely can dig into a tasty treat, but not one easy to digest or for the faint at heart thanks to a heavy load of cholesterol. As you might have guessed the Goan sausage belongs more to the category comfort food than healthy stuff… this asset it shares with the country of its origin.
Like its sausage, Goa can satisfy your heart and give you troubles at the same time. Although it is now considered one of the signature dishes of Goan cuisine and some people call it a must have in every kitchen cupboard, the Goan sausage did not originate here. The art of sausage making was brought to Goa by the Portuguese, which invaded the country about 500 years ago. They turned masses of the local Hindu – and never-sausage-eating – population into Roman Catholics with a wide choice of non-vegetarian dishes made from freshly imported ingredients.
Portuguese missionaries brought the cashew trees from Brazil. As fervent believers in alcoholic sustenance they discovered the potential of toddy from palm trees as a base for hard liquors. This led to the production of palm and cashew feni – and consequently to alcohol addiction of parts of the population. Tamarind from tropical Africa, tobacco, potatoes, pineapples, papayas and two varieties of chillies from Mexico were further imports of the Portuguese invaders. Thus ingredients from various parts of the world provided the Goans with a rich cuisine of its own, unique in India, a mixture of east and west.
All this can be experienced today by simply slashing through the skin of a Goan sausage. Immediately the distinctive aroma of ground spices spreads in the air, tickling the taste buds and promising further delights. Normally this calorie bomb is made from pork meat but if you are lucky you can find beef and wild boar sausages. The diced meat is salted, mixed with masala and marinated. After being stuffed into a sausage casing it is cured and dried. This century old tradition of preserving meats without a fridge gives these sausages a shelf life of over eight months.
Goan sausages have to be sturdy as local farm woman sell them under the hot sun in the markets of the towns. Many families still raise their own pigs and use them to make sausages mostly for the monsoon time, when fresh fish is scarce. Like Goa though, the humble sausage looses its appearance of a simple, cheap meal available for a few Rupees in many bars and restaurants once it turns international.
You can buy Goan sausages on the internet for about the same price as Parma ham or smoked salmon. To be fair it must be told that the high prized Goan sausage complies with UK food standards. The original sold in Goa might have some troubles achieving international endorsement as the local food production lacks sometimes in supervision and does not always play by the rules… Nevertheless, once out of the country the Goan sausage denies its humble origins and transforms itself into a costly delicacy.
The same experience can be made with and in Goa. If you book your holiday on the international market it can turn into a costly affair. Many people pay thousands of dollars to spend a few days in the luxury resorts dotted along the beautiful southern coast of the country. In these 5 star heavens, pampered and protected from any troubling views, the rich tourists can experience the sweet life and leave Goa thinking it is truly another tropical paradise of sun, sand and sea.
Alas, these people have not opened the sausage and they have missed out on discovering the soul of Goa. To explore the different morsels of Goa one has to bring some time, patience and an inquisitive mind. Once the sausage opens up, you can see a variety of different bits and pieces. There are white dices of lard which resemble some of the tourists which have contributed to the wealth of the country. Like lard these pieces lack somehow in public recognition. They offer an easy target for criticism in the media by various fractions of the Goan society. Politicians especially condemn this influx of white flesh as deteriorating for the local culture whenever they need a scapegoat.
Although they bring millions to the country, nobody really thanks these people for the role they play – offering plenty of income for many local citizens. This fate they share with lard and its cured form, bacon: Who ever praised the health benefits of piggy fat? Ok, maybe the real health benefits are few but one should not forget the tremendous amount of satisfaction and the soothing feeling after having ingested vast amounts of animal flesh.
At this point probably you can guess that the author of this story does not belong to the vegetarian part of the population. Another ingredient the sausage reveals is flesh. Now there are some few grayish, whitish pieces and also bits of meat which have turned brown marinating in the masala. Like the so-called hippies which came to the country and opened it for tourism, the base of Goa’s current wealth, the whitish pieces resisted the influence of the masala.
The hoards of peace loving individuals who arrived in Goa in the wake of the 60ies did not think about the Roman Catholic religion and Hinduism which dominated the country for centuries. All they cared about was to live a free, cheap life and to celebrate some great parties. For a few years everybody was happy until greed took over on both sides. Some members of the local community discovered that you can make a lot more money selling drugs and robbing the foreigners instead of simply renting out rooms and serving food. Unfortunately quite a few of the foreign guests joined them in profiting from the drug trade.
Quickly Goa lost its innocence and acquired internationally a bad name as a place where everything goes – although the country is much bigger than these few pieces. Even if the so-called hippies brought a lot of trouble, they enriched the Goan culture tremendously at the same time. Thanks to foreigners the flea market in Anjuna developed. This famous market shows a display of wares which come from all corners of the planet thanks to business oriented travelers. The flea market remains today a valuable source of income for many local business people.
In recent years a number of Saturday night markets provide further business opportunities for local and foreign entrepreneurs. Although these foreigners are often brand marked as “hippies” they enabled a lot of Goans to reap rich profits. Nevertheless they are often indistinctively condemned in the media as drug traders and they figure very low in the public opinion of the Goan natives.
Luckily we find plenty of morsels of brown flesh which have taken on the color from the masala in our Goan sausage. Like these pieces many people from different parts of India and the world have come to Goa, incorporated the local spice mix and added to the richness of its flavor. Many times there is a big hue and cry in the media that Goa is losing its culture under all this foreign influx.
At this point one might ask: Which culture to start with? The Hindu and Muslim culture which was present before the Portuguese? Like the Goan sausage, the present culture is a mix of many ingredients which come from all over the globe. Goa has melted these ingredients into a unique masala, which unfortunately is not of eternal duration. Once incorporated into the sausage, the masala shares its shelf life of 8 months.
So the Goan culture, often praised but rarely explained, remains a subject to change as well. Of course it is easy to blame the bits of society, which stand out from the masala, for all negative changes. The blame game is played all over the world and it does little to provide solutions for existing problems. What Goa needs are citizens who dig into the masala-mix of the sausage. People who explore all the bits and pieces of the ingredients which contribute to this traditional meal: The long list includes saltpeter and the ever-present feni.
Many people from all over the world could contribute to make this state a better place. To analyze issues and to contribute to their solutions one does not need to be born in Goa. The world is rapidly changing everywhere. Most of the Goan problems are not unique to the country. Instead of cultivating xenophobic tendencies, Goa could profit from experiences made in other parts of the world, brought here by people with an international state of mind.
Maybe the time has come for the Goans to embrace all the different parts of their diverse society. Without the blame game there would be much more time and energy available to address the real troubles Goa is facing. In the end everybody would profit from rolling up the sleeves and tackling issues which cannot be overlooked like ever growing mountains of garbage. One step towards a promising future for all people living in Goa would be to join forces. Let’s hope the Goan sausage is ready for a new recipe – equally delicious, but easier to digest.