What’s the best accompaniment to Christmas dinner? Red cabbage? Get out of here. Parsnips? Come on, now. Sprouts? That’s an argument for another day.
The obvious correct answer is: ‘pigs in blankets’. And I mean proper pigs in blankets which, in the UK, means a sausage wrapped in bacon — none of this pastry nonsense.
Whoever thought of taking a sausage and giving it a little pork jacket deserves some kind of medal or at least a little mention in a national anthem. There are people in the world who also think like this, which is why they’ve set up the world’s first “pigs in blankets party” in Margate, a seaside town in Kent in the south of England.
The party features 100 different variations of pigs in blankets including just about every sausage that exists, from foot-longs to cocktails to whole wheels of pork. And all these sausages were covered in bacon combinations you could never have dreamt up.
Obviously, I was more than a little excited to take on the challenge of trying every single one.
The whole thing was conceived by culinary genius and PR creative and her food PR company Messhead which previously created such magnificent-sounding food shenanigans as ‘Fry Hard’ — a pop-up shop where they’d literally fry anything — and also the less appetizing sounding but equally incredible ‘Human Butchery’ which consisted of various meats arranged to look like human flesh on a body.
“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?”
I was greeted by a ham-flavoured daiquiri on arrival by chef Jim Thomlinson who’s worked across the UK in some fancy Michelin Star restaurants but thankfully now he’s doing the Lord’s work with sausages.
“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?” he asked.
“Shall we run away and get married, Jim?” I replied.
The romance with Jim didn’t stop there as he brought out a wooden tray with two different types of pork-wrapped black pudding and an intimidatingly long-looking monster.
Jim and Emma presented plate after plate of blankety delight to me —a saveloy (a bright red banger popular with cockneys) wrapped in smoked back bacon, fennel sausage with Parma ham, a venison and red wine banger with a thick bacon coat.
You know that Kanye West song that goes “Welcome to the Good Life”? I’d bet actual money that he wrote that on a rainy Sunday in Kent whilst stuffing himself with a sausage made of white pudding coated in turkey bacon.
Just when I was thinking there was no way these mad sausage lovers could surprise me any more, up pipes Jim: “How do you feel about stuff that’s been battered?”
“I feel like that’s something I could get on board with, Jim. I’ll be honest”
Not content with wrapping a bit of bacon around a battered sausage, however, Jim also had the bright idea of deep frying an entire pig in a blanket. We need more forward-thinking individuals like this taking control of our meals, if you ask me.
I know you’re reading this and thinking “Wow. This man has it ALL right now. The guy is full of pork ‘n’ just loving life”. I’d be thinking the same thing but I’ll tell you what though, trying to work your way through 100 different types of pig in 100 different types of blanket really takes its toll on you around pig number 60. I was trying to take little bites of everything, which was easy when faced with two metres worth of Cumberland (a big ol’ chunky sausage from England), however as the pigs got more and more interesting, the urge not to just scoff the lot down became worryingly hard.
I assume it is very similar to running a marathon. Sure, those first 10-15 miles are just a breezy little joy but then as you near the finishing line, things get slightly more challenging.
I was experiencing what runners call ‘The Wall’. Except, instead of a bit of a stitch fixed by chomping down some Haribo, I actually had a bit of a job in front of me. Somewhere around blanket number 80, I was really starting to flag. Surely there couldn’t be many more ways of blanketing a bit of sausage?! Then I heard it from the kitchen: “Do you want some lobster?”
I’d forgotten about lobster, the pig of the sea.
Now, I don’t make the kind of money that’ll see me turning down lobster at any point and if I can give you one piece of advice it’s that if you’re ever offered lobster, YOU TAKE IT! Particularly when that lobster is wrapped in bacon (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course).
The final stretch of pigs in blankets presented itself before me as a host of cheese-wrapped big boys — a Toulouse sausage wrapped in Raclette, a Frankfurter with cheese coursing through its centre, a bit of venison in blue cheese. The home stretch was a decadent bastard, to say the least.
Then it happened: I reached the final pig in blanket. I was so horribly full of pig and I honestly thought I would feel absolutely disgusting and sick, but actually I was more intrigued to see what mad delight Jim had cooked up for me to finish this party. I ran through all the variations that could possibly be left and kept coming up short. Then I saw it.
A mince pie. A mince pie wrapped in thick bacon. Although not technically a sausage, I feel like this spin on the classic might’ve been the change I was looking for, because I wolfed down the warm treat without even thinking.
100 variations of pigs in blankets, done. I’d like to say that I learned something after taking on this challenge, but I’ll be honest I already knew that pigs in blankets were food sent from the Meat Gods and this entire adventure just confirmed it.
If you’d like to experience the same level of greatness as I experienced that day, then the Cinque Ports in Margate is hosting the second installment of their Sausage Parties on the 29th of December where you can get all the pigs in blankets you can eat for £20 — just in case for some reason you don’t get enough pigs in blankets on Christmas Day.