I was in Denningers yesterday, lining up as I do every year to get Pa sausage. It’s Westfalia garlic sausage, something that has graced Sommerfeld Christmas breakfast tables since I can remember. The kids called my Dad “Pa”, hence, Pa sausage. It was his favourite. You better believe it is the best part of our Christmas. The stuff is amazing.
Anyway. At Denningers, you take a little number from a plastic machine that offers up the next one, which is always about 30 from the number that is being displayed in red pixels high above the counter. It’s that time of year; the entire world gets all German/Ukrainian/Polish/Austrian/Whatever and has to go to Denningers to get densely packed cylinders of meat that pack enough calories to bring a herd of buffalo to their knees. But buffaloes are extinct, you say? Well, that’s because they ate at Denningers.
I clutched my 56, careful not to drop it. Things can get ugly at Denningers if you have to explain that you really are the next up. You can only wander down so many aisles tossing rye bread and egg rolls into your basket and miss your call; the number after yours is on it like a hyena on downed prey. There are approximately a dozen people working behind the counter this time of year, a counter that stretches the entire width of the store.
They’ve actually taken over the old Zeller’s (and for ten minutes, Target) location at the Burlington Mall, and I am gobsmacked thinking about acres – acres – of Denningers’ deadly salamis. The new store isn’t ready yet. We remain packed into their existing location, buying chocolate bars with incomprehensible writing on the wrappers, chocolate that will either be the best chocolate you have ever had, or else taste like an old German man’s woolen sweater than never got washed. When people leave the old country, they sometimes carry with them slightly wrong memories of their childhood; some childhood memories need not be resurrected – trust me.
As I stood with my small basket (only fools try to push carts through aisles as clogged as most of the arteries of anyone who eats these wares on a daily basis), patiently holding my 56, a small old man came up to me. He was darling, like an elf. He was 85 if he was a minute, and he sparkled up at me and smiled.
“What’s your number?” he near-whispered to me. Oh, we were co-conspirators in our quest for the best fat-laced smoked meats in the country. I held up my 56, and smiled at him.
“Oh,”, he replied, sharing a secret with me. “I’m leaving and just wanted to find someone with a higher number, so I could give it to them.” He held up his 63, and I sparkled back at him.
“That is sweet of you. I can’t remember the last time a gentleman asked for my number,” I replied. He paused for a moment, then his face lit up with laughter.
“Oh, my, you made me smile!” he laughed, squeezing my elbow with his slightly arthritic hands. “That is a good one!” he said, as he made his way out.
I watched him go, and realized he didn’t didn’t actually wait for my number.