This story was republished with permission from The Buckeye Flame
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: two drag queens walk into a sausage shop. And a fun time is had by all.
But no, this is not a joke. It’s the unique idea devised by Melissa Khoury, one of the Lady Butchers behind Saucisson, the famed butchery and lunch spot in Cleveland’s Slavic Village.
Dubbed “The Sunday Matinee Sausage Party,” the monthly event is a hands-on, sausage-making, drag-entertaining extravaganza. Needless to say, meat puns abound.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with Khoury about what it takes to be a lady butcher and how it came to be that drag queens invaded her kitchen.
Give us your backstory. What brings you to butchery?
My first job was in a kitchen when I was 14-years-old. After I went off to culinary school, I was a restaurant chef and did the restaurant scene for a little while, working in some really cool restaurants down south, specifically in Florida and Georgia. Down there, I had the opportunity to get my hands on butchering a little bit more and thought, “This is really cool.”
As I progressed into my culinary career, I was always trying to put butchering into the restaurants I worked in, but it’s hard because it can be so expensive and not everyone is trained.
Then I had actually an injury, and it was a career-changer for me. My ulna nerve—your funny bone nerve—had detached from my arm and was free-floating in my elbow. So every time I was sautéing, I was pinching my own nerve. I finally went to a sports medicine doctor, he diagnosed me on a Tuesday and had me in surgery on Thursday. Turns out, I was really close to severing my own nerve.
That was the catalyst for me. I was 30 years old, and while I enjoyed cooking, it wasn’t what I wanted to do full-time. So I just said, “Fuck it.” And I started Saucisson. I quit my job in the middle of September of 2013, and by December 7 of 2013, we were open for business. This coming March will be our 5-year anniversary since opening up the [brick-and-mortar] shop.
My gut tells me there are not a ton of female butchers out there. Is that a stereotype?
It is not a stereotype. It is 100% true. It’s only been in the last 20 years that women even get a fair shake in the kitchen, let alone butchery.
There are a lot of stereotypes that if you’re smaller in stature, you can’t be a butcher. What I’m finding is that it’s a detriment to your own body to say, “I’m so strong. I’m going to lift this myself.” What are you going to do when you’re 50? Why would you do that by yourself every day, all day long? Why not ask for help?
In the last 5 years, I’ve noticed a lot more women opening butcher shops and sausage companies. But more importantly, some of these larger companies that have been around for a while are putting women at the helm, which is important.
For me, I don’t care what body parts you have. Do you know what you’re doing? Are you giving it your all? Are you trying? Are you putting forth the effort to grow yourself in the industry? At the end of the day, that’s all that should matter.
There will never be a smooth transition to this pivot, so let’s just get to it. How do we combine drag queens and sausage making?
I ended up winning a bingo and had to do a dance-off with another person. Peach pulled me aside and said, “Can I buy you a drink?” And I responded, “I own a sausage shop. Do you want to learn how to make sausage?” It just came out of my mouth. I didn’t even have a follow-up sentence.
Her immediate response was, “Hell yeah, I want to learn!” I followed up a few days later—I tried not to be a crazy fangirl—she came by the shop, walked through, and we talked about how it could work. She knew right away she wanted Anhedonia Delight to be her cohost for this.
And to be clear, this isn’t solely a drag show. People are learning things too?
Yes! We actually make sausage! There’s a cooking demo element to it. Every month, it’s Peach and Anhedonia who are my cohosts and they bring in a special guest. This week we’re bringing in our first drag king: Ryder Slowly.
Each party is 100% hands-on. We make a sausage that is inspired by our special guest. I come up with recipes to highlight their heritage and to celebrate them. Everyone goes home with a pound of sausage. And we show people different ways of cooking the meat. Last month we made a pizza. This month we’re making tacos.
And something that was really important to all of us was having a donation kickback at these events and keeping the money with smaller charities in northeast Ohio. We have donated to such charities such as Colors+, Margie’s Closet, and West 117 Foundation. This month we’re giving to the B. Riley House. This one is special to me because my dog is a certified therapy dog and we go to sober living houses a couple times a month to spread the love and joy.
And we don’t want to leave out that there are indeed performances at the events.
And of course, they do perform and that’s also fun. More importantly, there is a Q&A section. These drag artists aren’t untouchable people. Yes, they’re performers and they’re bigger than life on stage, but they’re also just humans.
So when I’m in the process of cleaning up from one sausage thing before we go to the next, we offer up a Q&A. It’s a very intimate experience. It’s 20 people. You’re right up close next to them. It’s a safe space where you can ask questions. Maybe you are interested in getting into drag. Maybe you have never seen a drag show before. We’ve had so many first-timers attend.
I would imagine that people love this unique experience.
Every class that we’ve had, I get follow-up from folks with a huge thank you for creating a safe space where people are not judged.
For me, being part of the community as well, I’m not big into being at a bar. Gay people like to learned things too. So why not learn how to make sausage and cook?
The last Sunday Sausage Matinee Party of 2021 will be held on November 7th. Get tickets here.
Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He is the author of “Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew” (2017), “LGBTQ Cleveland” (2018), “LGBTQ Columbus” (2019), and “LGBTQ Cincinnati” (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.