Monday Musings: For the Love of PIG!

Monday Musings: For the Love of PIG!

By Natalie Bright

My middle grade novel is set in 1887 Texas and I’ve been researching provisions of the time period. My main character needed something that could be carried in a saddle bag for several days or even weeks. I hesitated to use pork. It wasn’t that long ago my 4th grader was told by a concerned classmate that he wasn’t going to Heaven because he ate bacon for breakfast.

It’s a PC World

The more I researched, the more I realized my main character would have in all probability had a slab of pork on hand. In this PC world, why has the traditional Southern diet become so offensive? Or as one blogger noted, “you spout religion while stuffing pork down your gullet“.

Understanding the culture in the South and our longstanding reliance on this animal may shed some light on this controversial meat.

From Where Pig Came

It was the Spanish explorers who introduced hogs to Florida in the early 1500’s. As colonists spread west, domestic and feral hogs soon became a staple of southern cooking. Various cuts of meat could be salt-cured and smoked, lard was saved in jars, cracklings used to flavor Johnnycakes, and the leftover meat was ground and mixed with spices to make sausage. Nothing was wasted, and it preserved well in the root cellars or smokehouses all across ¬†frontier America.

Feeding Pioneer Families

Steeped in a rich tradition that all blessings for the table are gifts from God, pioneer mothers prepared huge country breakfasts of fresh eggs, milk, bisquits and hearty slabs of fried ham to fill empty bellies after early morning chores and to sustain everyone during a day of hard labor until sundown. My grandfather recalled he got tired of sliced onion in a biscuit for his school lunch, until the family slaughtered in late fall. My husband remembers two fatted pigs fed his family of five for the entire winter. The children’s classic Little House on the Prairie devotes an entire chapter to the hog and how they utilized every part of him.

The fear created around pork may be rooted in a parasitic disease called trichinosis, caused by eating raw or undercooked pork or wild game. We understand now that pork must be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. U.S. pig farms are ultra clean and heavily regulated.

Symbol of Luck

The Pig symbolizes good luck in many cultures around the world. People in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria eat pork on New Year’s, based on the animal’s habit of rooting and pushing forward, making progress with every step. In Italy, the rich fatty content signifies wealth and prosperity, and tasty German sausage is legendary.

Life in the South

If you live in the South, the reality is that majority of us eat pork. Our love affair over a hickory smoked pork rib is not based on anything evil or satanic.  The family barbeque is a long held tradition from when we were little kids. Grease dripping down our chins and faces smeared with sauce is never considered rude.

For the love of pig; it’s a southern thing, ya’ll.

Natalie Bright