Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Old Country Memories: Sausage Gambling

When I was growing up in the middle to late 1980s, Taiwan had barely just emerged from under martial law, and people were relatively poor. One of the more amusing memories I have about Taiwan is the sausage gambling phenomenon at night markets or in the rear gates behind schools (where all the "illicit" and "shameful" stuff like candies and pop stands were). Gambling was and still is illegal in Taiwan, but because martial law meant swift and harsh disproportionate punishment, people never gambled in cash, but instead offered "games" for goods like soda, candy, and sausages.

A modern sausage stand.

Taiwanese sausages are sort of thin tubes of pork that is over-salted and over-sweetened. They tend to be a little dry, because they literally are hung on a rack above the grilling station. Unrefrigerated in Taiwanese weather! But whatever! They were tasty and I never got sick.

So anyway - one of the stranger things is people gamble for these sausages. Back then, prices were relatively low, so you could buy a sausage for like NT$ 5 (something like 17¢ USD). So once you bought your sausage, the dude behind the stand would grill it up for you. But if you opted to, you could gamble with your sausage.

Usually hidden under the grill, the guy had a mini roulette wheel or  a dice board, and you could gamble a sausage for more sausages! Hypothetically, you could win the entire cart and just go home with a few hundred sausages, but I don't think that ever happens because the games were probably all rigged like in any real casino, where the house always wins.

I never gambled with my sausage - probably because the only money I ever had was the random NT$ 5 that I found while I was looking at the ground. But I recall some classmates had the gambling bug.

I guess no matter where you go, there is a portion of the population that enjoys gambling. Gambling is like extreme alcoholism, if you have the genetic predisposition, all it takes is the rush of the first roll of the dice and you're hooked for life.

I guess my former classmates could say "it all began when I started gambling with my sausage."

No comments: