Friday, August 28, 2009

The Pig Roast

My boy turned one year old last weekend.

For Jeep, this was another day of grabbing for rocks, learning to walk, pointing, smiling, and generally experiencing the world in all its beauty.

Of course it was not so simple for me.

A year ago, I had a career change. I went from high school teacher to Daddy.
I left a school where I was valued, needed, and appreciated. I watched kids grow up before my eyes, and I knew that I was making a difference. I was a coach, mentor, teacher, and case manager for a whole slough of kids whose lives didn't hold much hope or promise. I worked every day to help them believe in the power of their dreams.
Five years I spent at this occupation, and in one dazzling August evening in 2008 the birth of my son changed my direction. I quit my job and took a new title. Stay-at-home-Dad.
So of course I had to commemorate the event. With a pig roast.
You may wonder, why a pig roast? I'm not sure I could tell you myself. In retrospect, I will say that it brought together a good mix of celebration, theater, and bacchanalia, which is to say, drunkenness. I couldn't be happier that my boy survived one year of life, and goddammit I wanted to do something GREAT to mark this event with the kind of gravity it deserved.
This was something I was called to do, that I needed to accomplish. Like many things in this category, it caused a minor fight with my wife. But lets set that aside and get on to the story.

I spent weeks preparing for this event. I researched pig roasting methods, scouted an appropriate venue, sent invitations, and procured kegs of beer. And then there was the pig. I chose to purchase this particular swine from a local butcher. I don't know if it was a girl pig or a boy pig. I just said pig, and they said okay.

I set my alarm for 3:40am on the morning of the pig roast. I had enlisted the help of a close friend in the building of the fire and the cooking of the swine. He seems to like being called the Pig Bitch, so we'll stick with that. At 4:45am with lit the match and started the fire.

Part of my whole pig roast obsession was that I wanted to roast the pig in the ground, using the methods of the islanders of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Basically, you make a big fire, throw in some rocks, then burn the fire down to coals and bury the pig under burlap or canvas or banana leaves or cardboard or all of the above. The rocks cook the pig. Brilliant.

There is a problem with this method - I don't know anyone who has ever done it. That's not quite true - I've seen similar earth ovens in Fiji, and of course I've been to the obligatory Hawaiian luau. But that doesn't help me here. I have other pig roasting friends, but they have all used a more labor intensive method - roasting over a low fire on a spit. It seems like all the serious pig cookers I know don't really like the uncertainty of burying the pig without knowing when it's going to be done.

For me, that is the best part about roasting a pig in the ground - there is some definite RISK involved. Greatness courts failure, Romeo.

Back to the pig. Once we had a big fire going, it seemed a shame not to make breakfast. Eggs and bacon, over the skillet. For anyone that would like to recreate a similar task, I made the fire from two year old fir and maple, then threw in an additional bag of charcoal briquettes. I also used about 15 medium sized garden rocks and 40 or so smaller river rocks. Several of the rocks cracked in half during the fire. The pit was about 3 feet by 6 feet, and roughly 3 feet deep. The bottom was lined with old brick.

Once we had finished with breakfast, the fire began to die down and it was time to prepare the pig. The Pig Bitch had picked her up the night before, and she spent the night in a cooler on ice.

Here I have a confession to make. I popped the cooler, tore open the plastic bag, and I got a little sick. I know what you're thinking here. I'm just a city boy, and not accustomed to the hard truth of barnyard life. That may be accurate, but I've been down this road before. I once killed and butchered pigs in a village in Siberia for Godsakes! With knives! No, dear reader, this was a different kind of sickness. It was a moment of doubt. This was the point where I realized that me and my pig roasting ceremony was totally RIDICULOUS. The sun was rising and a gentle fog rested on the meadow. It was 6 in the fucking morning. I had a giant dead animal on my hands, and why? Why am I so crazy? All of my very best thinking got me right here. I sat in it for a minute, and then we had to move on. There was nothing more to be done. Lets wrap her up and cook her!

Here is what we did. First we seasoned the pig with barbecue spice. Then we cut large holes in the rump and shoulders and inserted hot rocks from the fire. We wrapped her several times in aluminum foil, then chicken wire. Placing her onto the coals, we covered her with pre-soaked burlap, then canvas, then wet cardboard. No banana leaves for these cowboys. Then we threw some plywood over the top and waited. Just how long to wait was a topic of much discussion between me and the Pig Bitch. The internet varied from 6 to 12 hours. We only had a 60 pound pig, so I opted for 8 hours.

If you happen to be doing this for a 1 year old birthday party, I must recommend the use of cheap plastic fencing to keep out children and dogs. It also gives the endeavor a macabre quality that can only be augmented by a tasteful plastic cross.

Fast forward 8 hours. We prepared for a party, and a party we had! Despite my best intentions, our 40 some guests and their 15 children failed to drink both kegs of beer. I assure you that I did my part. I was feeling no pain when it was time to exhume the pig and cut her up for consumption. Nontheless, I can only report success.

The pig came out of the ground in grand style. There was a crowd of people, I gave a short speech. May my baby boy live a long and happy life!

Someday he will ask me, "What did we do on my first birthday?"

"We roasted a pig in the ground, son, in your honor."

"Did it taste good?"

"It tasted GREAT."

Posted by Picasa

No comments:

Post a Comment