Generally each winter is marked by the day that the Pontarolo, Fazzari, Bloom and Criscola families converge to make italian sausage. To be honest I am not sure if writing this breaks ranks with omerta, but this is not actually about the secrets of sausage making it is about the 'Abe Fromans' of these families.
Until recently sausage making had always been a tradition that manifest itself in the Columbia Valley; in the basement of Virgil and Dorothy Criscola's Walla Walla home. As a kid I heard stories of the sausage escapades, like moonshiners crossing the Canadian border during prohibition, my Dad and Gary Bloom would rise early and beat hell to get to Walla Walla for sausage making, french bread, and Carlo Rossi. One of the most famous stories revolves around a 1984 Honda Prelude, negligent driving, and avoiding a citation due to errand whiffs of garlic and pork emanating from the Prelude prompting the State Patrol man to wave on the offensive car. Memories like this would not exist without my Grandpa, Al Pontarolo and Uncle Virgil Criscola, the 'Abe Fromans' of their generation. They encouraged and facilitated, with passion, the art of making italian sausage for my father's generation and now for my generation.
It was not until I was 16 years old that I actually made sausage and I am not sure if this is because I was 'too cool' before 16 or the sausage kings knew better than to invite some punk kid to be privy to the intricacies of the sausage process. Never the less this year marks a change in tradition, one that I hope to carry on for years to come, one that I hope to add my own traditions too, and hopefully one day become the 'Abe Froman' of my generation.
Thanks to all of those who chipped in time, money, equipment, expertise, passion, and vino.
In memory of Dorothy Criscola
Sept. 9, 1927 - Nov. 8, 2010