9 times out of 10, when you’re driving down the road in the Car, and one of the passengers spots something he/she/they want to stop and look at, either you’re going too fast to stop, there’s another car behind you, there’s nowhere to park or, you just can’t be arsed. However, and recently, we managed to haul the car up to a safe stop to look at something ‘interesting’. This ‘interesting’ category means either; you can eat it, drink it, ride it or wear it, and on some bizarre occasions, all of them together. We had stopped at a small wooden chalet, in a small Swiss hamlet, that had 1652 carved into one of the external beams, and which had a small blackboard hanging from the door frame, exclaiming that ‘this was the best place on the planet where the best salami and chorizo is made’. Incidentally, whilst salami is easy to pronounce, the word ‘chorizo’ is a bit like the word ‘scones’. They can both be pronounced differently, and if you say them wrongly in the right place, get ready tobe sent to the ‘social outcast’ queue.
We step into the chalet, and dangling from the many hooks hammered into the beams, are loads of salami and chorizo sausages. A man comes out of a small door in one dark corner of the room to greet us. He smiles and smells a bit like the chalet; wood smoke, sausages and with a hint of cheese. We stand looking upwards at the sausages, all pointing downwards, and towards us. Its like standing under a ‘portcullis’ in a castle gateway that threatens to drop down on top of you. Salamied to death is not something I consider regularly. The proprietor offers some freshly cut salami and chorizo. About 10 varieties just to confuse us, and also to give us a top protein (with a hint of fat) meal. He speaks English very well. Actually, and not unusually for the Swiss, he speaks 6 languages very well. Whilst we’re chewing on sausage, he explains that a he’s been making sausages like this for 46 years, and he started when he was 17, in 1972. He did a years education in Austria, and in a place called Graz, which was an industrial part of Austria, but also a place where sausages where a staple part of the diet. He befriended the owner of a local salami maker and then spent the next two years making salamis. He’s been making them ever since. We buy some salami and chorizo, and as we leave, he follows us out of the chalet to our car. As we walk out of the chalet door, there is another big door in the barn next door, which is open. I strain my eyes to focus on the interior as its really bright outside, and very dark inside the barn. I notice a bicycle, covered in years worth of dust, and completely original. I mention the bike to the owner and he says that its his old bike, and that he hasn’t ridden it for many years. I ask if I can look at it and he’s happy to show me it. The wooden barn is massive and the roof structure is an amazing piece of engineering architecture. It has to be, because it has at least 1 metre (3 feet) of snow and a ice on it for 3 months of the year in winter.
I notice straight away that the bike is an Austrian Steyr Puch. The owner says that it was the bike that he bought back in 1972 to cycle around Graz from his apartment, to the sausage makers place. He said that he had also been cycle touring in the UK with it, had damaged his rear wheel and needed a replacement. Buying a wheel for a continental bicycle in the ‘70s, in the UK meant one thing. The size would be different, which is why the bike still has its replacement UK 27 inch diameter rear wheel, and the original continental sized 700c diameter front wheel. The owner said that he rode it for years like that and it was fine. I asked him what he was going to do with the bike………..guess what’s coming next. He said he was going to do nothing with it. He had seen my interest in the bike and asked if I wanted to buy it, and what would I do with it. I said ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘restore it’ to the second question. Long story short, I bought the bike for about what we’d paid for the salamis and chorizos that we’d bought 20 minutes earlier.
If ever there was an original bike (apart from the rear wheel), this is it. After some careful restoration, which only included cables, tyres and some new-old-stock handlebar tape (in the Austrian colours), its finished and rides well. It even has its original 1972 Swiss registration plate that all cycles had to have at the time.
So back to the salami subject. Most of the ‘continent’ made cured sausages of some sort and the UK didn’t, as much. All of the salamis and chorizos that are generally available in the UK, are from somewhere else in Europe, and imported in. Well, things have changed in the UK, and particularly in Yorkshire. Some cyclists may go for energy bars, supplements etc, but I don’t think that there is anything better than a Salami or chorizo sandwich as a mid-ride snack. It is what the Tour de France riders used to eat in the ‘olden days’ anyway. We’ve been getting really great, locally made chorizo and salami from one maker called ‘Three Little Pigs’, and which matches/betters the continental stuff. This change in available food like salami isn’t in preparation for Brexit, and as the UK plans to sail a bit further away from the continent, its just another example of how the world is merging into one really diverse and culinary place.So, wherever you are in Europe or the UK, particularly Yorkshire, you can get good salami and chorizo. If only you could get bread as good as you can in France and Switzerland…….next UK culinary opportunity? Hopefully.
One last point, and that’s on buying bicycles, motorcycles and cars as an investment. I have a theory. Whilst the exclusive Italian Colnago cycles, MV August motorcycles and French Buggatis will always be breaking sales records, the day of the cheaper ‘everyday’ item is yet to come, in my view. Try and find an original Honda 50, or Austin maxi, or an original 1972 Steyr Puch Clubman bicycle, for example. You won’t find them easily because they were the things that the ‘common child/woman/man’ would use as an everyday form of transport. This means they all got trashed eventually, so I reckon my original Puch bicycle will appreciate more in percentage terms than the Ferrari F40, and is more reliable as well.
All photos by the author