Thursday, April 17, 2014

A dissertation on suckling pig

Long-time readers of RtO may recall that the main purpose of this blog is to celebrate delectable, greasy pork. Not every day. That’s why the intervals are filled with politics, history and music. But today I have found a classic of pork porn.

It is from Irvin S. Cobb’s “Cobb’s Bill-of-Fare,” written a century ago:

“Perchance also the sucking pig of the good old days still prevails in certain sheltered vales and glades. He, too, used to have his vogue at holiday times. Because the gods did love him he died young -- died young and tender and unspoiled by the world -- and then everybody else did love him too. For he was barbered twice over and shampooed to a gracious pinkness by a skilled hand, and then, being basted, he was roasted whole with a smile on his lips and an apple in his mouth, and sometimes a bow of red ribbon on his tail, and his juices from within ran down his smooth flanks and burnished him to perfection. His interior was crammed with stuff and things and truck and articles of that general nature --I’m no cooking expert to go into further particulars, but whatever the stuffing was, it was appropriate and suitable, I know that, and there was onion in it and savory herbs, and it was exactly what a sucking pig needed to bring out all that was good and noble in him.

“You began operations by taking a man’s-size slice out of his midriff, bringing with it a couple of pinky little rib bones, and then you ate your way through him and along him in either direction or both directions until you came into the open and fell back satiated and filled with the sheer joy of living, and greased to the eyebrows. I should like to ask at this time if there is any section where this brand of sucking pig remains reasonably common and readily available? In these days of light housekeeping and kitchenettes and gas stoves and electric cookers, is there any oven big enough to contain him? Does he still linger on or is he now known in his true perfection only on the magazine covers and in the Christmas stories?

“As a further guide to those who in the goodness of their hearts may undertake a search  for him in his remaining haunts and refuges, it should be stated that he was no German wild boar, or English pork pie on the hoof, and that he was never cooked French style, or doctored up with anchovies, caviar, marrons de glaces, pickled capers out of a bottle  -- where many of the best capers of the pickled variety come from -- imported truffles, Mexican tamales or Hawaiian poi. He was -- and is, if he still exists -- just a plain little North American baby-shoat cooked whole. And don’t forget the red apple in his mouth. None genuine without this trademark.”

Newspapermen don’t write like that any more.

A Chinese suckling pig; the American kind is extinct

I have cooked a whole suckling pig once. He was delicious but hard to obtain and, as Cobb noted even in 1914, hard to fit into a modern oven. I had to bend him into a crescent.

It was worth the trouble.

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