I’d never considered myself a gambler in the true sense of the word until quite recently, when going against conventional wisdom I decided to leave the outcome of my labours to the gods of chance.
Sure, Melbourne Cup caused me on occasion to have a crack now and again and I frequently buy a Saturday night tattslotto ticket when the Mega-Draw poster calls to me from the window of the Newsagency across the road. I once worked for a restaurant group which operated two large restaurants at
Melbourne’s Crown Casino
and through my years there I saw first hand in the hopeless faces of the losers
who would add to the bulging pockets of the Packer family, the misery of
I don’t mean that those afflicted with the betting addiction are ‘losers’ in the sense that they are worthless human beings but they all ‘lose’ eventually. Curiously I watched ‘Casino’ again last night which I suppose prompted writing this piece as my thoughts turned to the notion that these days everyone expects guaranteed outcomes of one sort or another.
For instance, you buy a loaf of bread expecting it to be perfectly and uniformly leavened and golden crusted. You trust the Pharmacist to administer the correct medicines as prescribed by your doctor. You sit flicking through a magazine in the waiting room of the car dealership as the mechanics service your vehicle and you pay the school fees with a sense of expectation and entitlement that the education product your are investing in with deliver the results that you presume.
At every turn, prescribed outcomes are not only anticipated but actually demanded.
Then something happens to shake up the orchestrated equilibrium of our lives that has us scrambling to comprehend the randomness of the result.
You open a bottle of wine and it’s corked.
The disappointment that you initially feel is overtaken by the notion of how inconvenient the situation is to be then replaced by an incredulous wonderment of how anyone could invest to much time growing the grapes, harvesting them, turning them into wine only to be knee-capped at the crucial moment by a knowingly unreliable and faulty method to seal the wine in the bottle?
Chance lifts it head up from the camouflage and reminds us it’s ever present even if we do our damned best to calibrate our expectations otherwise.
And so it is with the magic of fermenting, where the game of chance is still allowed to exist to a degree but this too is being eroded by strategic manoeuvres to determine a prearranged outcome.
I have followed a recipe and those of you who know me would understand that I fatigue quickly when following directions of any sort, be they an address or a protocol of some sort but in this case I defer to the wisdom, greater than my own vaulting self belief, to that of Pietro Demaio.
His self published book, about as far away as one can get from the vanity projects of lesser authors, is called Preserving the Italian way. As well as advice on pickling and preserving are some great recipes for making salami which I have faithfully followed save for the complementary step of adding any sulphites or sulphates.
This is where I leave it to chance as to how my salami will result as I believe that if it is to be truly unique then it must be a product not only of the provenance of its core ingredients but equally of its environment.
I know that some people insist on using a culture to give a certainty to their endeavours and often adding other ingredients to ensure that only the good bacteria thrive and this makes some sense if the objective is to standardise for consistent outcomes however I would suggest that this makes for a homogony of taste that might make it difficult to discern one salami from another.
I think if one has an interest in the natural cultures of wild yeasts and their effect on wine, beer, cider, sourdough bread, fermented vegetables or cheeses does might also extend their ethos to the making of smallgoods in a similar vein but this is not always the case.
This I suppose is because of the imminent possibility of poisoning the consumer and it’s a reality that causes some understandably grave introspection however the other side of the coin is that people have been practicing this rudimentary craft of preserving meat for centuries and in conditions that would be positively archaic by today’s rigorous prosecution of hygiene principles but back then people trusted their senses more.
If it smells bad, looks bad and tastes bad, it’s probably not a good idea to ingest it. This simple check has kept us pro-creating for aeons but we have been dulled into not trusting our own gut instincts anymore.
My salami may or may not turn out the way I’d hoped but then again it might and the test will be in the tasting. So far, its smells good and looks good and I trust what I can smell and see.