I forget how long ago it was and even the reason why I was chosen to go in the first place. In retrospect, I think it was of a more of a calling than anything else. I mean, why else would I find myself in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on a warm summer’s eve surrounded by nothing but the stars and thousands upon thousands of other like minded individuals, each of whom had their own stories to tell about how they got there? Questions about race, gender, sexual preference and nationality all seemed to fall by the wayside and we greeted each other like conquering hero’s or members of the same tribe returning from journeys to a far off land. We sat around campfires telling our stories (some of which might have actually been true) and our eyes misted over when the tales turned to members of our ranks who had fallen. Toasts were offered up to both the living and the dead and we greeted the coming day with a sense of anxiety and anticipation.
As it turns out, we were all summoned there for one reason and one reason only. To partake in a veritable orgy of beer drinking and to pay homage to that food staple of the Great Midwest, the king of sausage and the best of the wurst, the brat.
The parking lot was jammed with hundreds and hundreds of cooks and their tools of the trade. There were lines and lines of huge kettles for boiling and grills for barbecuing. There were countless aluminum containers that would hold such condiments as onions and peppers and sauerkraut. There were vats so deep you could go elbow deep and they were filled with ketchup, mustard and hot sauce. There were enough coolers on hand to hold an ocean of beer and the pile of plastic cups and paper plates was stacked so high it hurt to look up at them.
As I wandered amongst the aisles sampling some of their wares I felt a sense of camaraderie that I’d hardly known before. Me and my brothers in arms tasted, compared and commented on so many types of methods and styles that it was getting hard to keep track of it all.
I started to wander off on my own to get some perspective on things and to give my stomach a rest when I saw out of the corner of my eye, a man standing alone with nothing but a rusted out hibachi and single solitary brat that looked like it had been there for years. It was charred black and the smell it produced invaded my nostrils like a horde of Huns descending from the hills upon an unsuspecting village.
My first instinct was to run. To run as fast and as far as I could to escape the horror of what had become of my favorite food. To witness this aberration was an affront to all I held holy and I wanted nothing more than to flee this awful place and make my way back to the safety of the crowd. Instead, I stood there mesmerized like gawkers at the scene of an accident.
The man signaled to me with his fork and his tong and I wandered over as if in a trance. I watched helplessly as he skewered the brat from the grill and dipped it some sauce that had the consistency of jelly. He then dangled it in front my face and I closed my eyes to try and wish it all away but it did no good. The glutton in me came out and I opened my mouth and clamped down on the brat like a hungry lion on a wounded zebra and took a huge bite.
I don’t remember the taste or even if I swallowed any of it. Some onlookers said I had passed out way before my head hit the ground and they were the ones who called for an ambulance to come and take me. I remained in the hospital for about week and the nurses later told me that in all their years, they had never seen anything like it. They said I was drifting in and out of consciousness and while I was awake I was either rambling like a lunatic or whimpering like a child. After a lengthy stay, the doctors tell me I’ll be fully recovered in a month or two.
I’ll leave you with this, I’ve never been summoned to Sheboygan again and if I am, I hope I’m strong enough to resist the temptation. If, for some reason you find yourself summoned there, don’t say I didn’t warn you.