Sausage Fest on Lex., or There Are No Two Finer Words Than 'Encased Meats'

At approximately 2 in the afternoon, May 5th, 2012, I fell in love with a sandwich. I was in a taquería line somewhere uptown with the rest of the city's agave-soaked droves, when I caught an irresistible whiff of something entirely un-Mexican. The scene: It's a breezy but clear Cinco de Mayo, the city's trading sobriety for sombreros, and I'm aimless -- jostling against foot traffic, towards the source of a sweet, smoky aroma, groping the air for more, like a madman. I stumbled down thirteen hazy blocks before coming to in front of a long, white food truck in the middle of a street fair on Lexington Ave. "Italian sausage", the handwritten sign read. The cart's grill was filled with pounds of pork salsiccia. Each pop and hiss sent chills down my spine. Fragrant fennel and hints of warm anise mixed and mingled just outside the truck's window. Words failed me. When it was my turn to order, I pointed, wide-eyed, to the pile of red-pepper-flaked, spicy sausage, and watched as the cook slid a vibrant medley of pepper and onion across the grease-laden grill-top. In seconds, he was handing me the sandwich. It had four ingredients: peppers, onions, bread, and sausage. The sausage was so good, so perfectly cooked, so stupidly fresh, that I had to collect myself on the steps of the Catholic Church on 66th. I had had similar meals before -- I love kielbasa, brats, and even a good dirty water dog -- but never had I encountered a meat with this much smoky, earthy, fennely goodness. Sitting there on the stoop of the Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer, I was having a goddamn communion with a ten dollar street sandwich. And, quite frankly, the tacos would just have to wait.
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