Monthly Archives: September 2007

Pork marathon





Nat asked for it, so here we go.
I’ve spent the last 12 hours working with the pig meat. In the morning I called my “American” butcher Joe Gates in Vacaville. He’s cutting up Little Girl–loins, legs, boned shoulders, lard–she’ll be ready on Wednesday. Then I headed over to Eccolo and watched an awesome butcher take apart Big Guy in the Italian style. In 3 hours we had two proscuittos salted and in the process of curing, 2 shoulders (for salumi), 6 pancettas (!), 4 gorgeous loins, 2 tenderloins, a ton of leaf lard, some bones, and 2 racks of ribs. Chris and Samin said the pig looked really good, and that I had done a good job. I can’t help but feel so proud of my pig. To make the proscuitto I rubbed the leg’s skin with salt, sort of massaging it in. It was so wonderful to really feel the pig, to get fat all over my hands, and make a connection with the pig again. I felt like, Oh, my friend, here’s your buttocks, they’re so nice. Chris said in Italy the butchers talk about women while they rub the legs.
I left the resto after a delicious BLT with a bunch of meat to process. First I put the loins and ribs in the freezer (thanks Daniel and Claudia!). Then I roasted the bones and boiled them in water to make pork stock. Then I rendered the fat. Then I made a county pate with the liver (Sylvia did get me the liver–and in the bag there’s also two kidneys and the heart). I don’t have high hopes for the pate–but I had to experiment with this huge organ. I ground up some meat and fat, lined the terrine with a big strip of back fat, mixed up the diced liver with eggs and white wine and flour. Cooked it for 2 hours. Around 9:30, I decided to eat dinner. I made a cuc, corn, tomato salad with bits of pork cracklings (you should smell my house). Next, I rubbed the tenderloin with fennel pollen, salt and pepper then seared it in a cast iron pan. Samin gave me some vibrant Tuscan-style pepper jelly as a sauce to pair with the pork. The meat with the jelly was the best thing I’ve ever tasted–it’s total heaven.
Bill has been telling people we aren’t going to raise a pig again, then he took a bite of the tenderloin and as he chewed he kept saying wow, wow. Then he paused and asked with a titch of paranoia: Do we have enough?

So much to say


I pulled away from El Ranchito feeling vaguely uneasy, but also vastly relieved. I had successfully raised the pigs without malnourishing them, with only a few escapes, and they weren’t mangled on I-80 in a truck/trailer jackknife.
But I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I left something very important, very precious, in the hands of an imbecile.
Sylvia of the banana clips and fake nails–didn’t take me or my pigs very seriously. For me, though, the pigs were a twice a day (at least) interaction for the past 5 months. I had wanted their death to be important. Sylvia, though, was always in a hurry and berated me for “asking so many questions.” Duh lady, questions assure that everything gets done correctly. I knew that she was trouble but I drove away because I had no other choice. I had rented the trailer and this was the end of the road.
Last night, while at a friend’s poetry reading, I got a voicemail from Sylvia. “Your pigs are ready,” she chirped. I checked my watch, 8:10pm. I was filled with dread and hate. First of all, I thought I had made it very clear that I would be there at the time of slaughter. I really feel strongly about this. She robbed me of that. And she also robbed me of all the organ meat and blood (when I called she said they hadn’t saved it). She lamely promised that she would find the heads.
In the end, this experience makes me hate America. This is how we do everything: we rush around because time is money, even at the time of death. The modern American tradition of not using everything–of throwing all that good stuff away just to deliver me the meat on a hook, it made me feel sick. The fact that I was culpable in this fiasco made it suck even more.
So it was with a swirling rage that I drove up with Bill to pick up the carcasses. I couldn’t even look at Sylvia I was so pissed off. I wrestled them off the hooks, lay them on burlap and then scattered bags of ice over them. They have 2 inches of fat all over their bodies, and I think big guy’s going to make some great proscuitto. I carefully put their heads in buckets on ice.
We drove out of Dixon, stopped and got some peaches at a roadside stand, the smell of the pigs like in Spain, and I fretted about why I was still so enraged. Here I was, I got the pigs, they looked great, I could relax after 5 months of hard work. Why wasn’t I celebrating? Why couldn’t I let go that I missed their death and their organs?
As the juice of a peach in early September dribbled down my chin, the man I love so deeply beside me, I sifted through my thoughts of anger. Around exit 56 of Vacaville, it suddenly became clear: perhaps in seeing the pigs die, I thought I would understand the nature of dying. Now cheated of this knowledge, I had to accept it: I will one day face an equally graceless death, and I still won’t understand it.

Stay of Execution


For those of you rooting (he he) for the pigs: you score one point, because the pigs are still alive!
I rented a trailer, borrowed my friend Ace’s truck, and Billy helped load them up. I fluffed up the back of the trailer with burlap bags, straw, and coffee chafe. The pigs went right in, gladly, because there was a little vat of peaches in the back of the trailer. Then I drove up to Dixon, CA and met Sylvia, the craziest pig killer ever. She wears a banana clip in her hair (think back on the 80s) and has long fake nails. She smokes thin, long cigs. Anyway, I opened up the back of the trailer, the pigs ran to their new accomodations at Chateau El Ranchito (think concrete) and Sylvia said, “Red pigs!” Turns out the bristle machine is down. The pigs will live another day. Stay tuned for this unfolding story.

Last supper


Today on a goat tour (more info later) my friend Jim pointed out that he thinks the animals which we are going to be eaten should be treated with more love. He names the boy goats which he intends to kill and eat, and makes sure they get the best food and the most hugs and snuggles. I think that’s a beautiful approach.
The dumpster tonight reinforced that idea when we got at least seven pounds of cheese–ricotta, yogurt, and mozzarella–and five buckets of peaches to feed the pigs as their last meal. They’ve definitely had a good life, full of good food, back scratches, and hose time.
I also got two clean buckets with lids (for offal) and a ton of coffee chaff (to line the trailer so they don’t smell it up). They won’t get dinner tomorrow night, and they are going to be pissed! In fact today when I went in to feed them, the little girl gave my foot a little bite. Maybe she’s just as curious about eating me as I am of her.

Last days of pigs


I feel like I’m orchestrating a murder. It’s very complicated. So many details. Like who’s going to kill them? How will I transport the pigs to the assassin? Does my friend’s truck have a trailer hitch with a functioning light? Etc. In short, I’m freaking out. A friend of mine asked if I’m going to miss the pigs and I didn’t hestitate: absolutely not. They’re so much work to feed. They’re ill-mannered/rude. They fight over food. They are not gentle. The attract flies. And finally, no spider has spun a web with pro-pig slogans. So I’m going forward.

Credit Union story

Just a quickie post before we go dumpster diving (again). Last night it was a lettuce avalanche. Our usual haunt was totally empty except for many EPT pregnancy tests. We hit the store around the corner and got about 8 buckets of perfectly lovely lettuce. The bunnies are in heaven.
Here’s the link for my latest article on SFGate.com:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/g/a/2007/09/04/moneytales.DTL