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When you just love 'soupy'

It’s a new year, so I have to come clean.

Somewhere in the Bible (and I’m paraphrasing here) it says that you really shouldn’t look at the speck in your neighbor’s eye while you’ve got a 14-foot, 9 ¼ x 1 7/8 inch laminated veneer lumber I beam stuck in your own eye. (OK, so Jesus, being an old-school carpenter, didn’t have LVL lumber, but you get the point. And anyways, they had cubits and not inches, but I could never make that conversion.)

And lately I haven’t practiced what I preach.

I tell my patients that cured and salted meats like bacon and sausage are simply not heart healthy. And yet, I can’t help it but I just love “soupy,” or homemade sopresata, a cured pork sausage made in the Westerly/southeastern Connecticut tradition.

Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa …

When I was new to the area, my wife and I became friends with a man named Arthur Lavoie. He was a wonderful prince of a man and could tell stories all day. Here’s one I recall: his ship was being attacked by kamikazes in the Pacific. They rescued one who crashed in the ocean, and Arthur tried to give him some extra food. (No doubt, he would have given the guy some soupy if he could have.)

When he heard I liked soupy, Arthur invited me to his house one fall to make soupy with his family. Soon I was in his basement, grinding pork shoulder and mixing salt and paprika and red pepper until my eyes burned and my nose ran, and then old Arthur hands me a lowball.

“It’s a Manhattan, helps the eyes,” he said.

Then another.

We hung the soupy on strings in a special cold room he had.

Another Manhattan.

I'm a lightweight, so a lot of that afternoon was quite a blur (thankfully, Arthur kept me far from the meat grinder), but I do remember that all of a sudden I started smelling a most glorious smell. Arthur was frying up the remaining sausage, and he handed me some crusty Italian bread with fried, spicy sausage meat on it. My mouth waters to remember it.

Some months later, Arthur called to say the soupy was ready and he was bringing some of it to my office.

“Bring it wrapped up and hidden,” I said.

“Why?" he laughed.

“I’m a cardiologist, Arthur. What will my patients think?”

I miss that beautiful man.

I don’t eat soupy much, but every year around Christmas, my friend Bill Sydenham brings me a stick of his homemade soupy. In my book, Bill makes the best soupy around.

Dr. Dan Gaccione, a paisan, colleague and an orthopedic surgeon who fixes me up when I break, jokingly told me I had earned some “Soupy Points” recently. We started musing on the ways to use your soupy points. Which led me to the following thought experiment: If a 1/8-inch slice of soupy is worth 1.0 soupy point, would 30 minutes of exercise be worth 2 soupy points? 1.7? Of course, I know it’s the devil’s logic and exercise won’t counteract the negative effects of a bad diet.

My friend Arthur passed away some years ago, but I still see him smiling every time I cut into a stick of soupy. There is no doubt that soupy is bad for your health. But maybe just the joy of making and sharing homemade soupy with friends for a very rare treat is worth a few soupy points.



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