Q: My husband and I have twin boys who played Little League baseball for the first time this spring and we recently volunteered to be in charge of lunches for the team. The coach recommended keeping it simple—”You know, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, or sausage wraps, chips, sliced fruit, drinks,” he said. “I can do simple,” I thought to myself. So, I grilled up a bunch of sausage on the Thursday before the Saturday we needed them and then I asked my husband if he could pick up the rest at H-E-B on his way home from work on Friday. Easy-peasy, no? Well, come Saturday morning I heat up the sausage and we start packing up. “Honey, where’s the white bread?” I asked. “What white bread?” he said. “For the sausage wraps,” I replied. “Yeah, sausage wraps,” he said. “I got tortillas.” Then we got into a huge argument about how to make sausage wraps. We’ve been married for nine years and we squabble the usual amount, but this was our first argument on the subject of the proper wrap for sausages. Please tell me (so I can tell my husband) that real sausage wraps are made with white bread and not tortillas.
Cindy Wilson, Plano
A: Thanks for your letter, Ms. Wilson. The Texanist hopes the inaugural ball season went well for your boys and that at least one of them managed a hit. The Texanist also hopes that you and the mister are still married. It would certainly be embarrassing to have to explain to friends and family that your semi-happy union had dissolved before reaching double digits due to a dispute over proper sausage wrap construction. Can you imagine?
That said, these things, as you seem to be keenly aware, do matter. The Texanist, for one, appreciates your culinary conviction. There’s nothing worse than a slapdash approach to the making of our favorite foodstuffs, especially when the foodstuffs in question are the simplest of simple sausage wraps.
It is thanks to our state’s early German and Czech immigrants that Texas is blessed with a rich tradition of delectable sausage making. And found within this bounty is a mind-boggling variety: Texas-German beef sausage, Texas-Czech pork sausage, beef-pork sausage, pork-beef sausage, jalapeño sausage, cheese sausage, cheese and jalapeño sausage, and so on and so on, ad infinit-yum. The Texanist is wild about sausages. And they are as versatile as they are delectable. They can be taken singularly as an entrée unto themselves, in combination with other meats or veggies, sliced up with beans, sliced up in a seafood boil, or pickled like an egg or pig’s foot. They’re good for breakfast with eggs or inside a doughy klobasnek, good for lunch, and good for dinner, too. Or as an appetizer. Or as a midmorning, midday, or a midnight snack. Or on a stick at a festival or rodeo.
Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting Lockhart and its numerous barbecue joints? Or Elgin, the Sausage Capital of Texas, a designation bestowed, with good reason, on the Central Texas town by the 74th Texas Legislature, in 1995. So renowned are the sausages in these two towns that the Texanist, when visiting, will sometimes go outside the comfort zone of his typical three or four-meat plate and just get a single meat plate, with succulent sausages as the centerpiece.
And, yes, of course, a solitary hot link is also very good when swaddled in the fold of a single slice of white bread—or in a fluffy flour tortilla.
You’ll notice that the Texanist mentioned flour tortillas. And that he did so non-disparagingly. This is because flour tortillas—you may want to sit down for this part—can, in fact, be a perfectly acceptable wrapping for a sausage wrap. The Texanist will give you a minute. But, yes, a true sausage wrap can be had by way of a fluffy flour tortilla, which are, thanks to the Lone Star State’s strong historical association with Mexico, also conveniently plentiful in Texas.
There is, however, a caveat, and it’s one of utmost cruciality, at least to the Texanist. The thing is—not everybody knows this—the choice of the proper wrapper for a well-made Texas-style sausage wrap is greatly influenced by the type of sausage to be wrapped. You see, the Texanist strongly—some would say absurdly strongly—believes that the wide variations found in Texas’s hot guts dictate different wrappers for different sausages; some links are better suited for white bread and some should always call a flour tortilla home. Attention must be paid. Are these sausages all beef? Are they all pork? (The Texanist is silent on the matter of chicken and turkey sausage.) A combination of beef and pork? If so, what’s the ratio of beef to pork? If the Texanist were ever served a Texas-German wurst—which is primarily beef and spiced with only salt and coarse-ground black pepper and stuffed into a pork casing—wrapped in anything other than spongy white bread, he’d turn his nose up. At least for a minute or two. Conversely, if he were offered a tasty garlic-spiked pork link of Czech lineage with a high pork-to-beef ratio wrapped in a tortilla, he’d lick his lips, smile, and say thank you. It’s a matter of absorbency and overall tensile strength.
Additionally, one must ask: What’s the casing material? Are there supplemental fillings? Cheese? Jalapeño? Are we topping the sausage with yellow mustard or a smidge of barbecue sauce (and maybe a couple of pickle slices and some onion and a little jalapeño)? Are we dining inside or outside? Is it winter or summer? Is the relative humidity relatively high or relatively low? These things, as the Texanist said, matter. Admittedly, some of these things matter a little bit more to the Texanist than they do to others.
Foreseeing that you might want a second opinion, the Texanist reached out to Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly’s esteemed barbecue editor, to whom he explained the situation. After making inquiries regarding the Texanist’s level of sobriety—but before the call was abruptly dropped—the barbecue editor informed the Texanist that either white bread or a tortilla (so long as it is a tortilla of high quality and not one of those rubbery, mass-produced, store-bought abominations) is a perfectly acceptable wrapper, no matter the sausage to be wrapped. His personal preference, he said, is white bread, situated, for ergonomic reasons, so that the sausage link runs diagonally across the bread slice from one corner to another and is then topped with ample barbecue condiments. It should be noted that while the Texanist respects the barbecue editor’s opinion, they do not always see eye to eye. The barbecue editor, for instance, does not “get” Big Red.
The Texanist and the barbecue editor do agree, however, that the real magic of a sausage wrap, whether it’s constructed with white bread or a tortilla, can be found in its sublime simplicity, as well, of course, in the tasty sausage at its core. Without knowing the particular sausage at the core of your Little-League lunchtime sausage wraps, the Texanist, unfortunately, is unable to render an opinion. The barbecue editor, on the other hand, would say that you owe your husband an apology.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.