- Megan Schreiber-Carter
Heartbreak Alley: Sausage Smoking & the Back-Woods Belly Dancing of Tullah Hanley
Heartbreak Alley is a kick-back place in a rural-Pennsylvania, mountain borough. In good weather, garage bays are opened wide to the gravel road. Garages, driveways, back yards, and decks line both sides of the alley.
Recently, some friends and neighbors gathered in a Heartbreak Alley garage for one family’s annual, mixing, stuffing, and smoking of sausages.
The recipe—pork, venison, spices, and sometimes leeks. (Leeks, also called "ramps," are wild spring onions, with an impressive garlic-onion action to them.) The mix is stuffed and exposed to a few hours of smoky, low, heat, so the sausages don’t dry out. (Wet wood creates the smoke.)
In this little-known, back-alley haven from the world, usual activities are beer drinking, eating, and a fair amount of talking over each other.
While doing all these things, and while the sausages smoked, out comes a comment about, “Tullah Hanley’s dance of the veils.”
“NOT the VEILS,” insisted one nearly-90-year-old neighbor. “Tullah danced with fans!” Everybody sitting in the circle of lawn chairs looked to him.
“Only one time did I see her dance," he said in a dreamy way. "I was a LOT younger, then. She was in her 60s but she still had a girlish figure. She had a NICE figure,” he added with a smile. Everybody started laughing.
As the sausage links still smoked, the first plate of leek-sausage patties, browned in a nearby electric skillet, arrived. Talk turned to the sausage. All pronounced it delicious, over mouthfuls of it, and approved the addition of the leeks. The beer was excellent with the browned sausage.
“She WAS EXOTIC,” the older neighbor said, out of nowhere, about Tullah, causing everybody to laugh again. “I heard her mother was born in an Egyptian harem, and Tullah was born in Hungary, I think. Tullah married a rich businessman, from up the line. He met her through her dancing, divorced his first wife to marry her. And, I think he might have been a LOT older than Tullah was. Somehow, he never seemed to mind that she’d go out and belly dance in public around here with her fans.” He smiled some more.
And, the local women,” one female sausage-eater said, “what did THEY think about Tullah and her fans?”
“Man,” he replied, “Tullah was GOOD to that town up there where they lived. She gave a LOT of money to that town, after he died. So, before she died, which was years ago, I think the local women learned to appreciate her, at least.” Heads nodded all around, as if this seemed fair.
Another older gentleman added, “sure, she shocked people, but most of the women just accepted the situation, didn’t say much about it. And the women that were mean and ugly to her, well, they were just that way to everybody. And, jealous of her, probably. Women like that’ll make a freight train take a dirt road just to get away from ‘em.” More laughter….
Once the slow smoking and conversation concluded, all happily headed home carrying a vacuum-sealed pack of smoked sausages, for later, and wearing a grin from their schooling on the fine arts of sausage making and the exotic, back-woods belly dancing of Tullah Hanley.
Out here, Megan