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And what an event.

It’s kind of a thing in my boyfriends family. He’s from South Carolina, and in the South, you invite a bunch of family and friends over, and have a Pig Pickin.  The extravaganza took place on his grandmas farm in North Carolina and this little piggie was from a regionally located farm near Raleigh.

Now, I find pigs and other food animals just as cute as the next person. So please, consider the following before bashing me as a careless meat-eater:

  • I was vegetarian for 3 years and am rediscovering my inner omnivore, which is how we humans evolved and function best as.
  • Choosing meat that has been humanely and healthfully raised is best. It’s even better to know your farmer and their practices, or go hunt your own. 
  • Eating a pig in this manner may seem barbaric to some. But failing to recognize that this is where your perfectly cut pork tenderloins or strips of bacon really come from is just silly. And ignorant.
  • Using the whole animal cuts down on waste. Bones and some organs can be used for stock. Other parts, pickled.
  • Factory farming is destroying our environment and our health and should be stopped once organic and “slow food” methods have taken full effect.

I’m remaining optimistic about that last point. Not sure if I’ll see that one come to fruition in my lifetime but I sure hope I do.

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Back to the Pig Pickin! The Pit Master (who is very well seasoned in pig roasting – no pun intended) used a charcoal roaster, continually heating mounds of new charcoal to throw in as a way to regulate the temperature. The pig roasted for about 4 hours, was pulled and chopped, and dressed with a vinegar based sauce; a sauce prominent in NC. [As I have just recently learned, there are regional differences in southern BBQ sauce. As just mentioned, NC is partial to vinegar based sauces, as well as Lexington, KY. South Carolina – mustard based. Memphis and St. Louis – tomato based. Good stuff.]

I have recently finished reading Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan. In this book, Pollan acts as an apprentice and discovers how the 4 elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water transform the things of nature into edible sources. His fire chapter contains an anthropological explanation of how humans evolved eating meat. Our brain size and intelligence (some may argue otherwise) grew because of this and made us the species we are today. Top of the food chain if nothing else.

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A little history of the Pig from Cooked: 

Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto brought the first Pigs to the American South in the 16th century, where they roamed freely for centuries in the Carolinas and feasted on acorns in the Eastern hardwood forests. Pigs were rounded up when needed, and were so abundant that slaves enjoyed them every now and then. Because the pig yielded so much meat, the roast always occurred as a community gathering. But it was the slaves who brought cooking the pig over a fire to the South. Slaves passing through the Caribbean observed Indians cooking whole animals, sprawled out, over fire pits.

In the Carolinas, the fall tobacco harvest has always been in cahoots with whole-hog roasting. Once tobacco leaves were done drying over night-burning oak wood fires, the residual hot coals were shoveled into pits and used to roast the pig as a celebration of completing the tobacco harvest. Workers (slaves) were thanked for their labors and invited to partake in the pig. A rare occasion where blacks and whites worked and feasted, side by side.

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Pollan does a fantastic job discussing the history and the art of southern BBQ. He lends much credibility to the hard work of the Pit Master and rightfully so. This slow cooked seasoned pork was really something. Moist, earthy and flavorful.

Born and raised a Floridian, I’m not really from the South. These true southern roots are now much more interesting to me and I have found a nice place of appreciation for this culture.

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