The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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Page 66 of 140

MERRILL SHINDLER'S WORD OF MOUTH Pig Is Big F long overdue. Two hundred years ago, when Americans said "meat," it was pork they were referring to. Up until the middle of the 19th century, when westward expansion began to open up the Prairies and the Great Plains, offering room for the raising of cattle, we lived on pig. So important was the husbandry of pigs that educator Horace Mann, in his Common School Journal, complained that New England schoolchildren did not live as well as New England hogs. The dominant dish at the time was "hog and hominy." Laborers in New York subsisted on pork blood pudding, which would cost 3 cents for a meal—with butter crack- ers tossed in for free. According to The Oxford History of the American People: "American cooking at this period was generally bad. And the diet worse." With the settling of the wide open spaces, we became a beef country. And pork became, well, good food for po' folks. But then, the wheel turned. Pork became artisanal. And we rediscovered the fatty joys of pig. Along came Berkshire (aka Kurobuta), Red Wattle, Tamsworth, Cinta Senese, Iberico, and the wonderfully named Ass Black Limousin. Look at the menu for Charlie Palmer in Costa Mesa, and you'll fi nd a grilled Kurobuta pork chop with lemongrass fennel purée. Not surprisingly, The Spotted Pig in New York offers crispy pig's ear salad with lemon-caper dressing, and crispy pork belly with fried squash blossoms. But we may actually have gone too far. Check out the Archie McPhee novelty gift website, and you'll fi nd bacon toothpaste, bacon air freshener, bacon dental fl oss, bacon frosting, bacon lip balm and bacon soap. Like Othello, we have come to "love not wisely but too well." We have come full circle, and then some. We've become piggish in our love of pork. And if the wheel really does go around, we'll be Fletcherizing our food next—the early 20th century trend of chewing each mouthful 32 times before swallowing it. 66 / the tasting panel / october 2012 PORK IS THE NEW PORK or four years now, Cochon 555 has toured America, under the banner "5 Chefs . . . 5 Pigs . . .5 Winemakers." It's a multi-city event, hitting 14 major markets, all built around the delights of pork. And every stop sells out. So, for that matter, did the recent Pig Out event in California's Orange County, where chefs and mixologists were challenged to create pork dishes and cocktails to drink with the pork dishes. There was plenty of pork as well served at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in New York— attended by more than 100,000 lovers of things porcine. Indeed, Pig Is Big from coast to coast. Which comes as a surprise to those who had assumed that we would be the Land of Beef forever. But then, everything comes full circle— and our born-again love of pork is a return,

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