The true taste of summer


I regard myself as having quite a refined taste for food, but for me summer, at least the Czech one, is connected with a very basic, perhaps slightly lowbrow, taste, and that's the taste of a burt, a small thick sausage for grilling.

Mind you, an ordinary burt has nothing to do with meat and according to new EU norms producers are not even allowed to call it a meat product, but a "meat substitute." That certainly doesn't sound too tempting and a sausage full of artificial colouring is evidently not the healthiest choice. But for me, summer without a burt is not a proper summer, just like real spring only comes when you have a beer at a beer garden ("na zahradce"), and winter arrives with grog - hot water with rum and sugar.

Grilling a sausage may seem a trivial matter, consisting of making a fire, putting a sausage on a stick and holding it above the flames until it's ready. In fact, however, "opekani burtu" requires certain skills. First, the stick cannot be too thin or it may be weakened by the flames and snap before the sausage is ready. But it can't be too thick either, as it could fall apart. Make a few cuts in the sausage skin - but again not too deep, otherwise it may end up in flames. When you are done with the preparations, stick the sausage in the fire - well, not right in - as you could easily burn it, but not too far away, or it won't get a nice crust. Try to grill it evenly on all sides, as you watch the oil from the sausage dripping off.

When the burt is ready (for some people this means when it is carbonized), take it off the stick with a slice of bread. Be careful, though, as this is a critical moment when it may easily end up in fire. Garnish your burt with some mustard - not the premium French kind - but a proper, full-fat, Czech ho"ice that comes in a plastic cup. And open a bottle of beer, of course.

When you are finished, the habit is to wipe your hands in the grass - it won't make them any cleaner, but they will at least feel less sticky. After you have no more wood to tend the fire and you yourself are feeling as smoked as that sausage, you can go to bed. As the sense of smell is supposed to be the most evocative, the scent of smoke will inscribe itself deep in your memory, reminding you during long winters that summer will come again soon.