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Affair of the Sausages – 500th Anniversary

Now, I’m sure when you read Affair of the Sausages, many ideas likely jump into your mind. However, you can put all of those to one side. Although this had a very sensual element to it, it doesn’t deal with sex.

Affair of Sausage Cervelat Salami
Cervelat Salami from Portage Meat & Sausage Deli in celebration of 500th Anniversary of Swiss Reformation.

The Affair of the Sausages traditionally marks the beginning of the Swiss Reformation in 1522. You can read a potted version of the story here.

The Affair of the Sausages: Hidden History

Five years ago marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation. That’s when Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg was commemorated.

However, there are several reformations that took place around that time. There’s the English reformation and Henry VIII’s search for an heir. A few years later there is the counter reformation. One of the many reformations that took place was the Swiss reformation, and it got started thanks to some sausages.

Sausage sandwich
Cervelat Salami Sandwich, and appropriate way to commemorate The Affair of the Sausages.
Affair of the Sausages in Short Form

The Affair of the Sausages all began in Lent. Cristoph Fausscher, a printer in Zurich, fed his workers a dinner of sausage. This meant they were eating meat during Lent, a no-no. His parish priest, Huldrych Zwingli was at the dinner, but is said not to have eaten any of the sausage. In this he created an early role model for Bill Clinton.

Fausscher reasoning for violating the lent ban in the Affair of the Sausages, is that his workers were working very hard to print out copies of St. Paul’s Epistles for dignitaries and clergy. As a parish priest, I can understand Fausscher’s position that this left him and his workers with a need for a substantial, nutritious meal. There always seems to be a lot more printing jobs over the Lent and Easter season.

When word of the  got out, there was a public uproar(which may have been the intent behind the meal). Those who had eaten the sausages were jailed. A couple of weeks later, Zwingli preached a sermon entitled: Concerning Choice and Liberty Respecting Food – Concerning Offence and Vexation – Whether Anyone Has Power To Forbid Food At Certain Times(Reformation Era algorithms were quite different from what we have today).

In this sermon, Zwingli argued that there was no Biblical warrant for excluding meat from the Lenten diet. Since the Bible didn’t demand the refraining of meat eating at any time, the Church had no right to impose it on the people.

Once released from prison, Fausscher printed this sermon. This caused further outrage, and the Bishop of Konstanz outlawed all Reformation preaching. The Genevan Genie, though, was out of the bottle, and within a year of the Affair of the Sausages, the fasting rules had been abolished(in Zurich).

Zwingli’s Sermon and the Affair of the Sausages

I managed to download a copy of the sermon by accessing a free trial on Scribd. This is not a promo, just stating how I got it.

The sermon is essentially Zwingli going through a series of Biblical passages, one at a time, to demonstrate that Christians have liberty on matters of food. He focuses particularly on Paul’s writings on liberty and giving offence, as well as several passages where Jesus deals with the same topic.

I’m not going to dig into the sermon here in any detail. I just have a few observations:

The first is that the sermon is well laid out. Each piece of Scripture that Zwingli digs into is given 1-3 paragraphs of exposition. Contrary to a lot of Reformation writing, the piece is not particularly inflammatory. Although, he does have the same prejudices toward Jews and heathens that many of the reformers had.

Second, his observations on giving offence are worthy of further study. I’d like to find out whether or not he went into discussion of these passages in his other works.

Third, I like his emphasis on the idea that the weak are not those who succumb to eating meat, or don’t keep the fast in the way others think they should. Rather, the weak are those who haven’t fully understood their liberty in Christ.

He places a great deal of emphasis on both groups being considerate of each other. He notes that the weak are often scandalized by the strong, while the strong often despise the weak. This should never be the way of members of the Body of Christ.

Given the way the Reformation played out, this idea doesn’t seem to have been taken much to heart. Much like today’s public discourse, anger, hatred, and violence too often won out over listening to each other, and treating each other with kindness and compassion.

Fourth, despite what the Affair of the Sausages might lead you to believe, Zwingli makes it clear that he supports fasting. However, only if it is being done in response to following and becoming more like Christ(roughly speaking). Fasting to please the authorities is no reason to fast at all.

This last point is the one that we should all keep most in mind during Lent. Lenten fasts are a good thing. We should, however, always be keeping the fast to enable us to learn more of Christ and Christ’s character. There are no bonus points in fasting for fasting’s sake.

Celebrating the Anniversary

I’ve read some of Zwingli’s writings, I’m also generally aware of his role during the various reformations(they were to some extent connected). However, I had not read about this event until yesterday.

So. I thought, what better way to commemorate it, than with some cured meats. I originally headed out to Mottola’s in the Hargrave Street Market, after out noon-hour Eucharist at Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, I had left my wallet back at the church.

I also thought, wait, why don’t I visit Portage Meats and Sausage Deli. They were far more likely to have cured meat that might be enjoyed in Switzerland. Not sure what types of sausages were popular in Switzerland I did a quick Google search, and came up with Cervelat

I made this part of my supper. Homemade Cervelat on Wondrous Bread from Hildegard’s, and topped with White Wine Mustard from Smak Dab. All in all, a fine way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Affair of the Sausages.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.