When I was a little kid, my dad used to bring home cases of Vienna sausages for us to snack on after school. The sausages would come in shelf-stable cans and resembled miniature hot dogs when pulled from their broth. I would coax them out one by one with a toothpick or a chopstick—the first one was always difficult to pry out, since they were jammed so tightly—and eat them happily at room temp. As I grew older, I came to discover these sausages were derided as poor people’s food, and I eventually pretended not to like them so my friends wouldn’t make fun of me. Then I stopped eating them altogether.
It’s hard to think back on the foods you once loved with residual feelings of shame. I mean, sure, canned Vienna sausages aren’t exactly haute cuisine; they’re made of chicken, beef, and pork, some of it mechanically separated, and the mixture is processed quite a bit in order to stay shelf stable for long periods of time. Vienna sausages are not fantastic, but that’s almost by design. They’re not supposed to be anything life-changing. It’s canned meat. You know what you’re getting, and you get what you’re promised. They don’t deserve mockery for that.
A recent Reddit thread posed the question, “How do you eat canned Vienna sausages?” Instead of a dogpile of internet users taking a fat dump on the mere existence of these sausages (which is what I was expecting), the responses mostly amounted to a celebration of their utility as a protein source. About damn time.
Most people confessed that they’d simply eaten the sausages straight out of the can, which suddenly made me feel much more okay about my childhood snack. Others said they ate the soft sausages with saltines, or with white bread plus mustard or mayo. Someone mentioned adding them to baked beans; another user said they roll up the Vienna sausages in slices of bacon and bake them off with brown sugar until the bacon gets crispy. There are hundreds of delicious-sounding suggestions, and just as importantly, hundreds of users sharing their memories of eating these things as children, just like me.
Reading the thread, I felt better about something I once adored. Now that I’m an adult, I try to avoid eating heavily processed food too frequently, especially since I’m in my 40s and both my health’s balance and my dietary preferences have shifted. But next time I see Vienna sausages on the shelf at the grocery store calling my name, I think I’ll grab one of the tiny containers and eat them right out of the can as God intended, just like I did when I was a kid. And I won’t give a shit about what other people think, because I let that sway me for far too long.