17 (Sat) July 2010
at Daegaya Meat Camp
-Goryeong, Gyeongsang-Buk, Korea-
with MtG et al.
It’s called a “meat camp,” the first of its kind, as far as I’m aware, at least in this country. Located on the grounds of a defunct elementary school outside of Daegu, the Daegaya Meat Camp is a venue featuring a kitchen facility where campers can learn how to make sausages. The site, which also features a wading pool for kids, is ostensibly for families and other car campers.
The advance team had arrived one day before the rest only to discover that the rains had led to ankle-level flooding, forcing them to sleep in the school building; the waters had mostly subsided by the next day, when we arrived, but the grounds were somewhat squishy-muddy-swampy in the aftermath; even worse, the daytime heat caused the moisture to evaporate and create a sauna effect.
FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES FLIES – of biblical proportions. None of us had ever seen anything like it. Our main tarp was rendered black with the flies that attached themselves to the inner surface. Along our chairs, on the tables. Even after we’d disposed of our trash and stowed the food in the coolers, they were everywhere. Goosebumps just thinking about it. Coincidentally, and I’m not making this up to provide literary irony here, the newspaper I’d brought to read that day featured an article about the troubled life of William Golding, the author of Lord of the Flies. I now regret not taking photos of it but, at the time, the notion of recording the torture for posterity didn’t register. The evening shift, after the flies had gone home for the day, was taken over by the mosquitos. Not as bad, either in number or aggressiveness, as I’ve encountered elsewhere but enough that I awoke the next morning with over a dozen bites on my legs.
In a twist on the old saying about not wanting to see how sausages and laws are made -i.e., just appreciate the finished product – the process of making sausages by hand at Daegaya Meat Camp was mildly entertaining, but the resulting batch of sausages was, to put it mildly, rather unpleasant.
In an air-conditioned kitchen facility, a renovated classroom in the school building, the tutorial began with a 30-minute lecture on the history and “science” behind sausage-making. At this point, given the instructor’s seemingly vast store of knowledge and overly finite attention to detail, we assumed that we’d get our money’s worth. 1.5 kg of pork shoulder, about 20% fat content. On one hand, the use of pure fresh meat was appealing in contrast to the left-over and otherwise unusable bits and pieces of pig that are usually used to make sausages. On the other hand, those bits and pieces are largely what makes sausages so tasty, and why we usually don’t want to know what goes in them. The meat grinder was set on fine, resulting in a near paste. When I wondered aloud whether this would remove a significant amount of bite in the sausage, the instructor changed the setting for the second batch. The casings were made of artificially produced collagen. Part of me was disappointed that we weren’t using natural intestines, but everything about the experience was designed to eliminate the more unseemly aspects of sausage-making. With the meat scooped into a press machine, and the casing tied off on one end and attached on the other end to a nozzle at the base of the machine, one person turned a crank while another guided the meat into the casing and twisted the growing tube at intervals to make links.
Talk about lipstick on a pig. Not only did the sausages fail to resemble bangers, they failed to resemble any kind of sausage per se. After we’d cooked them on indirect heating on a grill to a perfect internal temperature of 68 degrees centigrade, as per instructions, the consensus was unanimous that they tasted lousy. The texture was unsavory, crumbly, like sawdust.