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Ted Markle: Leaders can bring out the best and the bratwurst in us

Bratwurst on the barby
Bratwurst on the barby

Some people fill their weekends with nothingness – a little TV, a little lounging around - but not my buddy Andrew. Like a visionary, he always has a new, ambitious project. I am regularly blown away by the diversity of his undertakings.

Ted Markle

A strong leader can inspire us to trust in one another to undertake new challenges. When we buy into a shared vision, we accept each other’s differences as we bind together to achieve a common goal.

So, during a recent visit, when Andrew proudly announced we were to spend the afternoon making sausages (bratwurst, to be more specific), I admit I was intimidated but not surprised.

Bratwursts do not conjure up positive memories for me. Many years ago, I had an unfortunate experience at a remote Bavarian restaurant that serves these tasty tubes by the half-metre. A framed black and white picture of the rotund record-holder adorned the wall (5m, 20cm!). Of course, I foolishly accepted the obvious challenge from a travelling companion. After I consumed “zwei” metres, the happy owner, Frau Frieda, burst from the kitchen to give my cheek a squeeze and announce to my fellow patrons that I was a “gut boy.”

Much to Frieda’s disappointment and disgust, (not to mention my own embarrassment) I never actually digested my meal and she promptly withdrew her prior praise.

Trying to put those traumatic memories behind me, I stood before Andrew’s kitchen island and surveyed the raw materials and equipment.

Like many clever men, Andrew finds a way to look gracious – even when he’s self-serving. You should know that Gillian (his better half) is not one for sausages. She says it’s the lips and eyelids that turn her off. Andrew, however, is pure carnivore.

He bought Gillian a top-of-the-line tabletop mixer for Christmas. Somehow, she was pleased. Shortly afterwards, Andrew discreetly purchased the mixer’s meat-grinding attachment kit.

Between the grinder, the mechanical filler and 200 feet of natural casing – we were set.

Andrew had done his research. We began by cutting pork shoulder and veal roast into cubes. He informed me that the ideal fat percentage for making sausages is 25%. I gave myself a onceover in the mirror and told him I thought I was probably within the margin of error.

He taught me that it’s not the fat, however, that gives brats their pale complexion. It’s the thick cream and eggs that are added to the mixture.

It may have been Mark Twain, or maybe it was Otto Von Bismarck (nobody’s really sure) but someone once said, “Laws are like sausages, it’s better not to see them being made.”

I came away with a new appreciation for the process. On their own, the original ingredients are uninteresting except to those with tastes on the fringe. It’s through their intermingling and homogenization that something appealing to most palates is created.

Decision-making can be similar process. Negotiations and compromise are essential to coming up with a mission that the majority can support.

As there is a grand bargain between the veal and the pork shoulder – lubricated by heavy cream and eggs, so it is in group-dynamics that leaders find a shared path forward.

There are those who see compromise as the ultimate political and moral sin. I prefer to see it as an artistic expression that aims to save us from the inertia and potentially violent fractures of polarization.

Besides, on an egg bun, with sauerkraut and mustard, the results can satisfy those from across the spectrum.

Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at ted.markle@tc.tc. – Twitter : @tedmarkle

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