Ask your typical Brit or Anglophile where the term “bangers” comes from, and you’ll hear a stiff-upper-lipped tale of World War II, meat rationing and high water content in sausages which popped when cooked too long. This 2005 BBC News story on “The politics of sausage” sums up that version of the term’s origin:
“Bangers” dates from WWII - high water content meant they exploded when fried
One problem: Aussies have been calling sausages “bangers” since at least WWI. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first citation comes from 1919, in W.H. Downing’s Digger Dialects, a glossary of phrases and terms used by Australian soldiers during the Great War. The term popped up again in 1928 in the Weekly Dispatch before, ahem, exploding into common usage as a result of watery links during the Second World War.
British sausages might not be as juiced up as they used to be, but they are typically cut with some form of breading, giving the links a heavy feel that you just don’t get with many other offerings from the sausage-making world.
Local lovers of bangers can get their fill at Red Lion Pub on Shepherd, which food critic Robb Walsh aptly described as an authentically fake British pub. The bangers are made on site every couple of days, Chef Kevin Jumangalsing told me over the phone. Real pork intestine (none of those artificial plastic casings), ground pork loin, breadcrumbs and secret seasonings combine to make classic bangers, a couple of which I wolfed down this week with some mashed potatoes and baked beans – not to mention a pint of Old Speckled Hen.
The sausages were a healthy gray, accented on each side with a stripe from the heat, and subtly seasoned. These were definitely not hot guts, but they surely warmed the belly on a cold afternoon.
Bangers and mash usually comes with onion gravy, and the Red Lion delivered with savory juices and soft slices. The beans aren’t a required part of the dish, although they are a nice complement to the bangers, as anyone who’s ever staggered away from a typical English breakfast knows. Just think of it as beanie weenies with a classy accent. – Keith Plocek
Red Lion Pub, 2316 South Shepherd, 713-782-3030