I am well aware of the infatuation many chefs and gourmands have with pork in all forms, but I don’t eat pork often. In my mind, thin, crispy bacon is a different meat altogether, and forms a staple of my diet. I constantly crave bacon and egg sandwiches and BLT’s. But bacon doesn’t resemble pig in anyway. And although I have become much more adventurous in my dining choices, I still prefer my food to look like food, and not the animal it came from. That being said, attending a pig roast has not been high on my bucket list.
In today’s new foodie world, it seems almost every restaurant offers pork belly and boasts “nose to tail” dining with meat from organic, natural, farm raised pigs. A pig roast is about as nose to tail dining as you can get. I have always been intrigued with the pomp and circumstance of a traditional pig roast, but the vision of a pig on a spit has kept me at bay. Well, the occasion finally presented itself. Keeping an open mind, I will try anything once, (okay, most things). Before I knew it, I was in the throws of a full-fledged “pig pickin”.
It was the perfect day for a pig roast. A warm, sunny summer day in New England. Cases of beer on ice. A backyard with the obligatory black and chocolate Labrador retrievers keeping the lawn free from superfluous food scraps. Good friends and family. The day was ripe for a new gastronomic experience.
Add to the fact that my son, who has always been a picky eater, has been raving about these pig roasts and how delicious the food is. I got over the initial shock that my son actually, willingly, walked up to a smoked, BBQ’d whole pig, tore off the meat, ate it, and… loved it. He told me he made a pulled pork sandwich. No way. He has talked about it incessantly ever since. Knowing my passion for food, he insisted, “Mom, you will love it, you have to try it!!” Given the fact that I was now at his fraternity and this day had been planned with great anticipation, I knew this would be a memorable experience.
When possible, I prefer my meat to be certified humanely raised and handled. I checked with Dave the cook as to where this little piggy came from. He assured me it lived a happy life. I’ll just have to trust Dave on that one. When he told me what the pig weighed, I realized it weighed more than me. I felt a twinge of guilt. It looked like a cadaver. It is a cadaver. I watched him prep the giant smoker. I could have easily fit in there…with a friend! He regaled me with stories of prior pig roasts and when I asked him how many of these he had done; he started calculating it out by pounds of pig over the years. Okay, I get it. Dave doesn’t just cook a pig though, he’s got the whole thing going. He’s an honorary brother, as he should be after so many years of putting his heart and soul into these productions. He’s got stories to tell. Some I’m sure I shouldn’t hear.
I watched the intense flames as Dave heated up the smoker the night before. The pig went on at midnight and Dave closed the lid and put that piggy to bed for the next 11 hours. When morning came he moved it to the hot grill, basting it in Jack Daniel’s and BBQ sauce. Dave even cooked up some prime ribs and chicken to fuel our protein overdose. Corn on the cob with a vat of butter high enough to dip a whole ear in, roasted potatoes, whole garlic cloves, sweet onions. Did I mention the rolls? Raw dough placed in pans with olive oil and baked on the grill with maple syrup poured on top. The syrup creates an amazing candy like crust. A nice New England take on fresh baked bread.
It truly was a feast. I didn’t think I could be so barbaric as to rip my meal from the carcass of an animal. And in the most ironic and unusual set of circumstances, my son paved the way for me. He pulled off the first crispy piece, dunked it in the sweet, tangy BBQ sauce, and personally handed it to me. It didn’t take long for me to go back for my own pull. My apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends. I hope you don’t think less of me because of my vulgarity. (Did I mention we had no napkins, plates or utensils?) It was a finger licking good pig roast of epic and historical proportions.
When you put it in perspective, we all began as hunters and gatherers. And as parents, we tried to convince our young children to try new foods and to keep an open mind. Am I now witnessing the fruits of my labor in the maturity of my son? Maybe. But I think teaming up with him in our game of beer pong was the greater proof.