Since I write this from Boston, I shouldn't admit or gloat that we missed most of the storm that has kept nearly every single Atlantic person outside our Watergate home—except the Food Channel's own doughty Dan Fromson, who has amazingly forded the snow banks and sluggish public transport pace in what James Fallows calls Siberia-on-the-Potomac, along with a handful of others (the avalanche of emails in my inbox proves that everybody's working! from wherever they're burrowed in).
And I certainly shouldn't use it as an excuse to have delayed welcoming two contributors I've long been hoping would appear on the Food Channel, especially when the debut of one, yesterday, centers on my favorite luncheon meat. Ian Knauer was a leading light of the late Gourmet's test kitchen, whose colleagues told me I needed to have him here. I saw from his excellent taste in recipes, and knew why as soon as we met: everything about his approach to food is informed by his experience on his family's farm in the not accidentally named Knauertown, Pennsylvania. He hunts, he fishes, he tends bees, and he cooks using the knowledge he's earned growing up working on a farm—and working now, as often as he can get down from Brooklyn, where he lives.
His debut post is only peripherally about Lebanon bologna, an oddly sweet beef sausage that once you try you want to have in place of any other sandwich meat. It's a beautifully written remembrance of his grandfather, and will make you want to learn much more about him—and also taste Lebanon bologna, particularly given the emotion he invests it with.
I discovered the bologna, named for a county and not a country, when researching an article that became a chapter in The Pleasures of Slow Food, about an irrepressible meat, poultry, and sausage purveyor named Verna Dietrich in Krumsville, Pennsylvania. It changed my mind about luncheon meat:
While serving customers Dietrich would slip Yoder and me little tastes of products other than the copious array of salamis and sausages already set out in tiny cubes: liverwurst, for instance, something I hadn't thought of since it meant grade-school sandwiches no one could trade, and so good that I wanted to spread it on German rye bread; and a kind of salami I'd never had that is emblematic of the Pennsylvania Dutch larder—Lebanon bologna, named for the county where it was first commercially produced. What makes it typical is the use of beef rather than pork, a distinct sweetness, and a gentle spicing with hints of ginger, paprika, mustard, and mace. (I got this list from Hot Links and Country Flavors, by the master sausage maker Bruce Aidells with Denis Kelly; Dietrich would reveal few of her "seasonings.") The Lebanon bologna, unlike other things I tasted at the store, was subtly smoked and not particularly salty.
Boy, did I like that visit—and the fastnachts, square Lenten doughnuts made from a yeast dough containing mashed potatoes, butter, and lard. Time for another visit! Meanwhile, though, I'm looking forward to much more from Ian, who will be a great guide to a part of the world I still know far too little about, and who is a great cook too.
And I bet you've been enjoying Tom Mylan's posts as much as I have. Mylan is one of the new breed of cool butchers in cool places—The Meat Hook, in Brooklyn. He's also a very accomplished, and funny, writer. We're really lucky to have him—and I'll have him to thank for a few fewer cut fingertips in the next few weeks.