A Porktastic Orgy of Self Indulgent Excess

Dave Eggers, the author and screenwriter, penned a humorous and emotional memoir entitled A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius. I always enjoyed the subtle wink to the audience involved in the title, calling your own work “genius” while telling readers it’s heartbreaking before actually breaking their hearts. If I was going to write a memoir it would be far less clever and way less subtle and I really think the above headline could actually work. A Porktastic Orgy of Self Indulgent Excess.

Before we lose all of our vegetarian readers I should point out a couple of things. First of all, we had a few vegetarians in attendance for Porkfest 2011. I realize that resonates about as well as a homophobe saying, “Some of my best friends are gay”, but it’s true. I even had vegetarian dishes just for them. Secondly, after the rampant, gnarly, gross excess of this past weekend I may actually become a vegetarian (ed. note: Not really).

But let’s start from the beginning. As I mentioned, a full on pig roast was an event a year in the making. However, having never actually roasted a pig I approached the impending party with a similar trepidation to that of Thanksgiving. When one dish is the centerpiece of a large gathering, one easily overcooked, dried out, completely ruinable dish, it can get a little nerve-wracking. What happened if I invited 90 people to a pig roast and the pig was inedible? Someone with the conceit to refer to himself as WestchesterFoodie no less? So many things could so easily go awry.

However, once the pig was actually on the spit (no easy feat I can tell you, and one from which my cut up, shredded hands will not soon recover) and over the fire all worries ceased. Once it was just meat and heat I regained my comfort level. After all, I reasoned, cavemen did it. And they couldn’t have been that much smarter than me, right?

Slowly but surely, over the course of about 10 hours of lazily turning on the spit, my little porky pal started looking less like something that was recently rooting for acorns and more like a beautifully burnished, delicious, juicy, jumbo sized pork spectacular. Watching it turn, constantly moving, was oddly hypnotizing. And comforting. It sounds off to say it, but roasting so often takes place in an oven that we rarely see the transformation of our meals, from flesh to food.

Anticipation grew along with the guest list. Word of a pig roast will always get out. Always. Even those not as enamored of pork as, say me or Homer Simpson, will be curious enough to want to get a look. A list by the way, that as I said included more than one vegetarian. Slowly the tide began to turn. The atmosphere changed from one of good friends and new acquaintances enjoying a (thank God) beautiful, clear summer day to one of growing impatience for the pig de resistance.

Finally, after a long day of cooking, more beers than I care to recall (or even could recall for that matter) it was time to carve this masterpiece.

Any lingering doubts or fears were immediately erased as I cut into a haunch and watched as clear, porky juice oozed out. If there’s one thing I know about dried out pork it’s that juice does not ooze out. Better than that, it was that perferct level of doneness, when I cut into it it was slightly pink and I watched it turn white in front of my eyes. How do I describe the taste? How do you describe something you’ve dreamt about only to have the reality exceed your imagination? It was clean tasting, as if cooking it whole left an unblemished purity. I’m sure this also had a lot to do with the farm on which it was raised. Hemlock Hill Farm, in Cortland Manor, has a stellar reputation. It was faintly perfumed from the garlic, rosemary and thyme that I stuffed it with (sewing up a pig cavity in the backyard at 6AM is a story for another day. I can’t even sew a button back 0n a shirt, but impromptu pig surgery, no problem.), as well as the bits of hickory and oak wood I used for smokiness. But really, it was just porky. At the bottom of the picture above you’ll see the blistered, crackling skin that made for an unctious, salty counterpoint.

I served the pork with three sauces, barbeque and homemade salsa verde and pineapple, anchovy and jalapeno sauce which I thought worked particularly well.

There seemed to be no reason to let the evenly burning briquettes go to waste so we threw a grill over them and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. In case there wasn’t enough food. In addition to the 14.25 lb brisket that I smoked for 15 hours. Did I forget to mention that?

A FoodieFriend, who up until recently only ate food whose only preparation involved a can opener, has recently been bitten by the cooking bug. He’s been leaning toward desserts though which worked out perfectly. In keeping with the theme he made a bacon and hazelnut ice cream, which if it sounds anything less than incredible to you then you need to taste it, as well as numerous other flavors. With one ice cream maker. He worked every night for a week. Who lucks into friends like these?

And really, for all my talk of pigs, fire, meat, cavemen and booze, the day was about friends. I had FoodieFriends travel hours to be there, cancel plans to be there, rearrange busy schedules to be there. There were different groups of people, as adults seem to accumulate. College friends, work friends, even a few remaining high school friends, and everyone hung out like old friends, their kids playing together beautifully. If anyone ever wanted to know why I enjoy cooking and/or hosting it was on full display. Cooking is Zen, friends are life.

Something I’ve neglected to mention is that Porkfest 2011 was also a de facto birthday party for your WestchesterFoodie. It wasn’t meant to be but the date that worked out happened to be two days before my birthday. And check this out…..

An official WestchesterFoodie cake, brought by FoodieFriends and made by the Cake Boss himself.

Did Porkfest live up to all my dreams and expectations? I’ll put it this way, when I look back on the better days of my life this one will be among them.

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9 Responses to “A Porktastic Orgy of Self Indulgent Excess”

  1. John Monday July 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    The pork industry defends horrendous cruelty to animals — factory farmers keep breeding pigs locked in two-foot-wide crates where the pigs can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives. Eight states have passed laws against this type of animal abuse, yet groups like the National Pork Producers Council still support it.

    More info at this link: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2010/12/smithfield_pigs_121510.html

    • James Felix July 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      “I’m sure this also had a lot to do with the farm on which it was raised. Hemlock Hill Farm, in Cortland Manor, has a stellar reputation”

      That’s quoted from the blog post above. The quote contained a hyperlink to Hemlock Hill Farm, a nice site that explains about how it’s a 3rd generation family farm that raises free range animals without the use of antibiotics and fed only grass and grains.

      Of course, you didn’t see that quote, let alone click the link, because you obviously can’t be bothered to actually read anything. Your simple little mind sees a headline with the word “pork” in it and it immediately jumps to the word “cruelty” with the same predictability (and same amount of thought) as a hamster hitting a button for a food pellet.

      Armed with that indignation you then come in here to retroactively rain on our picnic and lecture us… to accomplish what? Do you really think you’re going to convince anyone of anything acting like that?

  2. WestchesterFoodie July 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Sigh. I was starting to point out that I got the pig from a farm where it was raised humanely, but what’s the point? If I wanted this to be a political site the pork industry is not where I’d begin.

  3. Scott K July 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Don’t kid yourself John, if that pig had half a chance he’d eat you and everyone you care about!

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