Mortadella, at least outside of Italian communities, is a bit of a mystery to the North American palate.  This large mortar-ground pork sausage, studded with cubes of fat, and seasoned with pistachios and myrtle, was reinvented on this continent as two poor imitations of the original: bologna sausage and pimento loaf.  While, North American bologna often represents the very worst aspects of industrial meat production, mortadella is, by contrast, a complex delicacy that has a history dating back to at least Roman times in Italy.

At The Whole Beast (2032 Oak Bay Ave.) master salumist Cory Pelan makes his mortadella with cubes of back fat that have cured in-house for months.  When I ask him about the mortadella, and how it is selling with customers, he admits that the association with bologna is lingering in some people’s minds, but that those who are willing to try the mortadella are not disappointed.  He goes on to describe a trip to Italy where he stopped in the city of Bologna specifically to try a mortadella sandwich at its source.  I try some slices and feel that his passion for his work is evident in the flavour.


Mortadella can be enjoyed simply as a cold cut in a sandwich, but it is also quite common to lay slices in a skillet and fry them before they are eaten.  In this respect, mortadella shares a commonality with its poor cousin, bologna, more so than with other cold cuts, which are not often fried.  If you are feeling ambitious one weekend morning, try laying a couple of slices of fried mortadella on top of an English muffin, and then cover it over with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce for a savoury variation on the Benedict.

As I had already made some labneh cheese and baked a loaf of seed bread, I fried mortadella and, along with fresh romaine lettuce and some homemade Dijon mustard, made myself a highly satisfactory lunch.  I recognize that not everyone is quite as ambitious as I am when it comes to using self-made ingredients, but the principle I am putting forward is that you need not stare into the fridge at the packet of mortadella in dismay and wonder how it ought to be devoured.  The possibilities are vast.


If you are truly lost for ideas, however, I suggest simply reaching into the packet and eating raw slices with your hands, as Tony Soprano did with capicola.  Mortadella is delicious.  Nor is it the only sausage to be had at The Whole Beast, obviously.  I also sampled both the regular and dry pepperoni and was favourably impressed by both.  Particularly if you have been buying pepperonis loose from the deli counter at a supermarket chain, you ought to do your mouth a favour and try a properly made one.  Eating them took me back to my childhood visits to Wolfie’s Deli in Toronto on Saturday afternoons with my father, but that is a story for another time.

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Born and raised in the mysterious East (by which I mean Ontario and Quebec, not Asia), Adam migrated out to British Columbia in search of adventure and fortune. He had been at different times a scholar, a musician, a poet and a ...

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