It's hip to be square!

by Julian Westaby.

save our sausage

A year ago, I did a project with the students at Central College in Glasgow where we were ‘re-inventing’ the Scottish ‘square’ sausage. The square sausage, or ‘flat’ sausage or  ‘sliced’ sausage, or ‘slicing’ sausage or ‘lorn’ sausage  or sometimes ‘Lorne’ sausage (it’s called different things by different demographics) comes in many guises and it’s a Scottish national delicacy. It’s peculiarly Scottish. A sausage wi’ nae skin. You can get it in slices, or in a ‘block’ which enables you to carve off manly chunks as the filling for proper, industrial-scale breakfast rolls.

Now, the square sausage, it gets a bit of a kicking from the Healthy Eating brigade because in it’s common-or-garden form, served in a roll, out of burger vans, at concerts and football matches, it’s a bit of an unknown quantity. There are numerous horror stories as to the erm…provenance of this savoury delectation. The square sausage, what ACTUALLY is in it? The answer is, for the ubiquitous ‘fitba’ roll’n’sausage, you honestly don’t really want to know. Phrases like ‘mechanically recovered’ and ‘rendered’ come into the equation. Others of a more basic cookery school would suggest ‘lips and asseholes’ are part of the culinary constitution. So, to protect those of a squeamish nature, can we just not go there?

In effect, Square Sausage, it’s a bit like Haggis. When it’s good, it’s very good but when it’s bad, it’s inedible! The best square sausage is crafted by artisans. Meat maestros, who would distance themselves from the demeaning title of ”butcher’.  Butcher? Pah! These guys (and increasingly, girls) do things with offal that wins awards. They deconstruct abbatoir-afterthoughts turning them into the breakfast of Champions. Because, as you’ll be heartily sick of seeing, on all these foodie programmes, good food, it’s all about INGREDIENTS!

People like Crombies in Edinburgh and Gillespies have raised sausage making to an art form and they don’t let the geometry aspect get in the way of producing something really em…pukka (sorry). Link or square, they make sure that their product contains, well, nice bits of animals.

So, it’s not come as a surprise that this venerable Scottish breakfast staple seeks to be protected. You know the score, the Italians are good at it. Parma Ham was once an Italian artisan’s sandwich filler, now it’s a protected luxury product. Parmesan cheese in Scotland used to resemble toenail clippings, served out of a plastic medicine tub, now it’s shaved over white truffles and asparagus. It’s protected, cherished and stamped with a regional marque of provenance.

So, if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us Scots! In fact, we’re at it already. The Arbroath Smokie (and I’m salivating writing this) is gorgeous and this has been recognised as a product of National interest. To protect the smoked delicacy, controls have been put in place to make sure no ‘smokie-come-lately’ can get in on the act. No-one on Tyneside can churn out a similar fishy-dishy. If it’s an Arbroath Smokie, it’s got to be properly smoked and it’s got to come from roundabout Arbroath.

I can’t for the life of me figure out how you’d even START to do this for the multifarious ‘square sausage’ offerings but I know from experience, I’ll be fun trying!

We’ve done it already with the Marketing students at Central College in Glasgow, and their  ‘Save-our-Sausage’ marketing campaign brief’. Basically, they put the square sausage on the pork pedestal, they had it stroll proudly along the Boulevard le Bouf, (because it appears Square Sausage can be made from quite a lot of animals, even venison) and they projected it as a Scottish icon. like Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, or Irn Bru, or MacEwans Export, in red cans.

Their response was remarkable and it’s easily the most creative work (along with the most fun) that I’ve seen generated, for any Student project I’ve ever worked on. Their outpourings and concepts were prolific. Risque, funny, clever, big-brand appealling, online, alliance marketing ideas…they produced TONS of really great stuff!

So, Scottish Food Provence Mandarins (is there such a body?) if you want to ‘get real’ and ‘Save our Sausage’ , contact John Heuston at Central College in Glasgow and his students will show you what to do!