linguica and me

This is a Bad Subjects essay from 1999. I wanted to post it after receiving a wonderful comment on an old post from someone who played a part in what follows.

Linguica and Me

Bad Subjects, Issue #43, April 1999

 

You hear a lot of talk about "comfort foods" these days, as aging baby-boomers and others attempt to relive the moments of their childhood when Mom made them their favorite meals. These comfort foods take us back to a time when we could count on being mothered, could count on a warm and caring home, could simply count on good things and people being there for us when we needed them. When people talk of comfort foods, they usually mean mashed potatoes and gravy, or hot oatmeal, or maybe a strawberry milkshake.

When I think of comfort foods, I think of linguica.

It's a difficult concept for me to accept, that I might have a comfort food. I have always been ambivalent about my past; the one thing guaranteed to give me comfort is the notion that as a child, I never felt comfortable. And so it makes a certain sense that when I recognize my comfort food, it's a greasy stick of fat and spices.

The great documentarian Frederick Wiseman made a film once about meat processing. One long sequence stands out in my mind: we follow a cow from its being prodded into the processing plant, through its death and dismemberment, and in the details the viewer eventually feels as if they are watching an abstract painter at work. By the end, there seems to be no connection between the animal that entered the plant and the beef that came out. When the workers are done, there is leftover meat lying all over the place, which is collected into large dumpsters using what looks like snow shovels. This leftover meat is used for hamburger.

If there's anything left over after they make the burger meat, I like to imagine they start making sausages.

Linguica is a Portuguese sausage made of pork and other stuff. Exactly what other stuff is for someone else to ascertain; I'm queasy enough just imagining what part of the pig ends up in the linguica. Linguica has been a part of my life since I was a small child, which likely explains why I take expensive cholesterol medicine today.

I worked with a man named Manuel back in my factory days. Manuel was a portly Chicano lift-truck driver who had lots of health problems as he approached his 40s. Finally, he had a small heart attack, after which his doctors insisted that he needed to improve his diet. They wanted him to cut back on his meat consumption, but Manuel confessed to the doctors that while he would try, they were asking a lot of him. Well, the doctors replied, at least eat only the leanest meat, and when you have a steak, eat small portions and cut the fat off the sides before you cook it. I remember Manuel telling me one night that he really wanted to follow the doctors' orders, but it was very hard because ever since he was a kid he'd been taught to eat the fat because "it was the best part." Manuel's dead now; childhood habits are hard to break.

When I was a kid, my Spanish grandmother had linguica delivered to her house. Other families in those days had milkmen, or if they were especially lucky, a bakery truck might deliver breads. But my grandmother was different: a couple of times a month, a truck from the Moniz Sausage Company would stop at Grandma's house, and she would buy a few sticks of linguica.

My grandmother lived to be almost 100 years old, and I'd like to say it was all that linguica which gave her long life, but in fact, she often had stomach troubles late in her life, and she didn't get to eat linguica in those later years. Which didn't stop her from feeding it to her own offspring. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, for decades the Rubios ate linguica. I never knew in those days that it was a Portuguese sausage, always assuming it, like my grandmother, came from Spain.

When my future wife and I started dating in high school, we regularly stopped off at the International Sausage Shop in Antioch, California, where we would pool our meager resources and split the costs of a linguica sandwich and an orange soda. Those were romantic times, let me tell you. Some years later, we discovered a place on the other side of town that made a most remarkable delicacy: linguica sandwich au jus! When the linguica and melted cheese were good and ready, they would be placed on the bottom of a large roll, after which the proprietors would take the top of the roll and dip it in linguica juice. If you've never eaten linguica, a short explanation is appropriate: "linguica juice" is another way of saying "rancid yellow pig grease." Comfort food indeed.

Linguica continued to follow me into adulthood. I spent one year living in Indiana, where linguica was so hard to come by that I returned to California, determined to never again live in a land without linguica. I did what I could to spread the linguica manifesto, although there wasn't much need to educate my fellow factory buddies who, like me, had grown up eating the stuff. When I began graduate school, though, I found a whole new cadre of friends, most of whom either had never heard of linguica or had been afraid to eat it. Early in our graduate careers, we went out for a night of pizza and beer meant to solidify our new-found collective spirit. My contribution to the festivities was to insist on ordering a linguica pizza, after ascertaining that the pub we were attending used real linguica rather than mere spiced-up ground pork. Sure enough, when the pizza arrived, there were dozens of small pieces of linguica. On the top of each piece proudly sat a bubbly glop of hot "linguica juice." I never got asked out to eat pizza with my grad school friends after that. Even the woman who professed undying love for Led Zeppelin drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham was more popular than me.

My grandmother practiced a very strict brand loyalty when it came to linguica. Only Moniz was good enough for a Rubio, she regularly proclaimed. And, in fact, most other brands of linguica had the same relationship to my comfort food as instant potato flakes have to real mashed potatoes. There was one company, though, Saag's, that made excellent sausages of all kinds, and their linguica, while not quite a match for Moniz', was nonetheless more than edible. For some years, Saag's had the sausage concession at the Oakland Coliseum, and I would look forward to eating a linguica sandwich at the baseball game. Little did I know that my small betrayal of Moniz would result in actual physical harm.

For one afternoon, leaving the ballpark after enjoying a home-team victory and a linguica sandwich, I found myself walking next to two old gentlemen, one of whom had a cap on with the word "Moniz" on the front. I asked him if the cap represented the sausage company, and he replied in the affirmative. "We've always loved Moniz linguica in my family," I informed him, asking if he worked for Moniz in some capacity. "I AM Moniz!," was his immortal reply. I couldn't have been more excited if I had just been introduced to Elvis. I started blathering about how Moniz trucks used to deliver linguica to my grandmother's house, and as I jabbered, I worked my way between the Moniz man and his companion. This other old-timer listened to me for a bit and then proclaimed that HE was the Saag's man, and that HE made linguica just as good as Moniz! Talk about heaven, I thought, I'm walking along between two of the greatest sausagemakers of all time! I turned to the Saag Man to congratulate him on all the great sausages he made, but he would have none of it. All he wanted to talk about was his linguica. Well, I said, you make great sausages, and your linguica is very good, but I'm sorry, Moniz makes the best linguica. Saag Man started punching me in my arm, insisting that his linguica was the best, which inspired Moniz Man to pound on my other arm, hoping to distract me from being swept over to the dark side. All the way to my car I walked between these two Titans of Tubesteak, getting my arms pummeled by their septuagenarian fists. I never betrayed Moniz, though.

Linguica isn't much of a choice for a comfort food: it gives you heartburn, it's full of cholesterol and unnamable meat products, it's ugly in its casing, it's ugly cooking in a pan, and it's ugly when it's ready to eat. Which is about how I want to remember my childhood: ugly and full of heartburn. But I know the lie underneath such a fantasy. My childhood was pretty normal, less interesting than the fact that I want to turn that childhood into a paean to greasy hog meat. I want to resist the very possibility that there is real comfort in my past, and so I adopt linguica as My Meat. My old friend Manuel took steak fat to his grave, but I don't eat linguica much anymore. I want to live to a ripe old age, so I can tell my great-great-grandchildren about the olden days when grease made housecalls.

Copyright © 1999, 2022 by Steven Rubio. All rights reserved. Permission to link to this site is granted.

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This is from a follow-up post from 2003 ... and yes, the recent comment I mentioned above is from John Correia Jr., the son of the John Correia you read about below.

ohmigod, linguica dept. (rubios, read this one)

I've gotten a couple of emails recently about the article I wrote four years ago about linguica. I hear from people every month or two about that piece, but getting two emails in three days seemed a bit much, so I googled "linguica" and "rubio" and found a link to Moniz.

Imagine my surprise (and pride!). So I decided to call the number in the listing, and next thing you know, I'm talking to a woman at Moniz. Turns out she knows who I am ... she found the article on the web and printed it out for everyone at Moniz, so they all know me, I guess. We talked for awhile, and then she asked if I could hold on a second ... I heard her talking to someone in the background, "I've got the guy on the phone who wrote that article!" ... and then this old guy picks up the phone, John Correia is his name, and his job is ... DELIVERY GUY FOR MONIZ!

He says he's been delivering for a v.long time, and I said well, my grandmother used to get Moniz delivered to her house, and he said yes he'd read that in the article, and I said well, she was all the way in Antioch (Moniz is out of Oakland), and he said oh, I used to deliver out there, and I said her name was Frances Rubio, and he said he didn't remember, it was so long ago, and I said she was an old Spanish lady, and he said YES, HE KNEW WHO I MEANT! and YES, HE USED TO DELIVER TO HER!!!

So here it is, 2003, my grandmother has been dead for almost 20 years, it's been longer than that since I can remember the Moniz truck coming to her house, and ... I'm talking to the Moniz delivery guy and he remembers!

File this one under Small World, I guess ...


valproic acid

Now I can tell the tale of the forgotten medicine. I take a lot of meds, and my wife has a time-consuming but welcome method of putting the meds into tiny bags, marked by date and time, so when, for instance, it's Tuesday morning the 12th, there's a bag for that. Unfortunately, she missed a med, one where I take one with dinner and two at bedtime. She got the dinner bag right, but left the bedtime doses out of that bag. The medicine was valproic acid, which is for anxiety. So there I am, anxious about the missing anxiety meds.

In London, I couldn't get anyone to refill the prescription. Well, an online doctor did it, but he was in the E.U. and England won't have that, so no pharmacy honored his prescription.

Ah, but Spain is a different matter! I was able to make a quick appointment at the Nerja Medical Center, where they wrote me a refill that worked in a Nerja pharmacy.

The irony is that there is nowhere in the world where I am more relaxed than in Nerja, so I haven't been anxious at all! All's well that ends well, in any event.


eye and nose update

For better or worse, I am off to Europe in a few days and so won't be seeing any doctors until we return.

My left eye (which had the emergency operation for a detached retina three months ago) is good enough. I'd like to say it was good as new, or rather, that it was as good as it was after cataract surgery a couple of years ago, since that made it better than new. The vision has improved greatly since the operation. I can drive, and I can see without covering the eye. But compared to the right eye, when I look out of just the left eye, everything is a bit smaller. Also, things have a kind of wavy edge to them. It's not very noticeable most of the time, but it is clear if I cover my right eye. The doctor says it will likely not improve much further, so I will see an optometrist after our trip to see about glasses or contacts for the problem.

My nose (which had surgery for the ever-popular inverted papilloma last month) is also slowly improving. I had a doctor visit on Monday that went well. I have been doing a twice-daily nasal rinse w/antibiotic that will continue for awhile, and there is still some minor irritation, plus it's still numb around the area near the left nostril (I think because nerves got chopped up a bit during surgery). The doctor will see me again when we return, and he says those visits will continue for the near future just to keep an eye on things. In previous post-op visits, he got a lot of crud out of my sinuses, enough so I figured it was all gone, but nope. I posted this picture on Instagram ... it wasn't a particularly popular post (one person commented "TMI"), but here it is, for posterity purposes, junk that came out of me a full month after the operation:

Nose crud


update

I'm working on it.

These pages have gone quiet for a few days. It's hard to concentrate when I try to write. The pain in my nose/face is getting better, but still far from optimal, so I'm still taking pain meds, supplemented with cannabis edibles that leave me properly fucked up (good news) and mostly stupid (not so good news).


update

This is what my year has been like.

Sometime during 2020 I got a note from the doctor saying it was time for a colonoscopy. Yuck, but what the heck. Except I had no intention of getting it done during the pandemic. Once a vaccine became available, I'd schedule the procedure.

February 13: first vaccine.

February 26: I have a video appointment with my doctor. When I explained that I have had some kind of nasal obstruction for years, and pointed to where it is always stuffy, she scheduled an appointment for me with the Head and Neck department.

March 13: second vaccine. Once I get the nasal thing taken care of I'll do the colonoscopy.

April 12: I see the nose doctor. She sticks a camera up my nose and sees what she thinks are polyps. She schedules a CT Scan.

April 23: I have the CT Scan.

April 26, May 12 and 18: appointments with nose doctor, who schedules an MRI.

June 9: I get the MRI.

June 11 and 22: Video appointments with nose doctor, who recommends surgery to remove an inverted papilloma.

June 23: I call the advice nurse because the vision in my left eye has gone to hell. We schedule an office visit for the next day.

June 24: I see eye doctor at 10:00. They say I have a detached retina, and schedule emergency surgery. In the late afternoon, they operate on my eye and fix the retina. Two months later, my vision is almost completely restored, although I haven't driven during that time, waiting for the full recovery.

August 24 (tomorrow): I finally get the nose surgery.

Needless to say, I still haven't gotten that colonoscopy.


fundraiser for charlie and sky

I don't often do this ... in fact, this may be a first. But I'm posting a link to a Gofundme effort for a long-time friend of mine. Here's the write-up:

As many of you know, Charlie Bertsch has been navigating a tremendously challenging home situation. He is now quite ill, and in hospital care. No matter what happens, Charlie and his daughter Sky need our help to raise money for MANY basic expenses in the immediate future. Please consider donating what you can towards this person who has selflessly given so much. All funds will go directly to Charlie and Sky for living, health-care, and educational expenses.

Charlie has been a constant presence on this blog (literally ... there is a photo from a visit to his house I posted on the very first day of the blog). You can visit the fundraiser page here:

Support for Charlie and Sky

Here is an old picture of Charlie and our beloved cat Starbuck:

Charlie starbuck 2


times change (geezer preview)

Times change. We are going to see Black Widow later today as this week's Geezer Cinema movie. Not to show my age, but when I was a kid, there was one movie theater in town (not a multiplex, it had one screen) and one drive-in. When a movie came out, first you waited for it to come to your town, then you could watch it, or you could wait a few years and see it, edited, on TV.
 
Today, there are five different options for seeing Black Widow. We will go to an AMC theater, where they are showing the movie in standard "Digital", "Real 3D", "Dolby Cinema", and "IMAX with Laser". You can also cough up $30 and watch at home on Disney+. I think of 3D being less popular today, but in fact, that's the one that is sold out at AMC. (We are opting for the IMAX, where, a little less than 3 hours before showtime, only 23 advance tickets have been sold.)
 
How do we decide which version to watch? Mostly, it's my choice ... my wife doesn't care one way or the other. In this case, the movie seemed big enough to warrant our second trip to a theater since our being vaccinated. My vision is still very blurry from my recent eye surgery to fix a detached retina, which would eliminate 3D, I guess, but that's never my first choice, anyway. IMAX is my first choice, if the movie intended for such. Black Widow features 22 minutes of "expanded aspect ratio" that can only be seen in IMAX, so that made my decision easy.
IMAX Black Widow