you know, i consider myself a relatively intelligent individual, but sometimes i surprise myself with little things that i just didn’t "get" until now. my most recent example happened yesterday afternoon, when i was reading a post on an animal-friendly life about suckling pigs. for some reason, it had never, EVER occurred to me that "roast suckling pig" meant, you know, a baby piglet who is still suckling at the time of slaughter. kind of like veal, but for pigs.
i mean, i’ve heard of roast suckling pig before, a million times. it’s practically a cartoon staple; the pig in the middle of the table with the apple in her mouth. i don’t know if i somehow equated "suckling" with "apple in the mouth" at a very young age and just let it sit there unchallenged, or what, but i hadn’t really contemplated the meaning of "suckling" until yesterday when it was spelled right out for me. i was simultaenously embarrassed and sickened.
our brains work in strange (and sometimes lightning-fast) ways, and suddenly i was rocketed backward in time to a visit i made to madrid, spain in 1993. my aunt and uncle took me to one of their favorite (and i guess one of the "best") restaurants in spain, where they served multiple courses and the whole shebang. anyway, they knew the owners and as we were being escorted to our special table, they took us past the kitchen, and encouraged us to peek in. i did, and it was a really neat room, very rustic and "spanish-looking" (heh.) and everything… but unfortunately i happened to look at exactly the wrong moment, as the chef brought a massive cleaver down on the neck of a small roasted pig. BAM! decapitated. i was HORRIFED. at the time i was 4 months into vegetarianism and i almost started crying right then and there. i had absolutely no idea how i was going to eat a meal after witnessing that. my aunt felt so, so terrible and was just beside herself. it is a moment that has clearly stayed with me in vivid detail, but i kind of have to pretend i never saw it most of the time.
anyway, after reading about the suckling pigs yesterday, it occurred to me that this madrid piggie was very small, and hence, a piglet. i don’t know why that didn’t click with me at the time… i guess "oh my god, that is an actual pig that just came out of the oven!!!" was enough for my brain to deal with.
just to make sure i was understanding correctly, i googled "suckling pig," and the first listing on the page was an emeril recipe on the food network site. check out his instructions, after securing "1 (15 pound) suckling pig":
This recipe is a two day procedure. Make sure
that your butcher thoroughly cleans the suckling pig. By cleaning
inside and out and removes the eyeballs. With a knife make several cuts
on the pig’s skin so the skin doesn’t burst during cooking. Prop the
pig’s mouth open with a small yam. Season the entire pig with kosher
salt and cracked black pepper. Place the pig in a garbage bag and tie
the back tightly. Place the pig in the refrigerator and chill for 12
hours. Remove from the refrigerator and rinse thoroughly. In a mixing
bowl combine the garlic, parsley, thyme, cumin, bay leaves, onions,
juice of the orange, lime, lemon, olive oil and wine. Whisk the
marinade until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the pig
back in the bag and pour the marinade over the pig. Tie the back
tightly and place back in the refrigerator. Turn the pig every three
hours. Refrigerate the pig for 12 hours. Remove the pig from the
refrigerator and out of the bag, reserve the marinade. Stuff the cavity
with the stuffing. Using a kitchen needle and thread, tie up the
cavity. Tie the front legs and then back legs. Cover the tail with
aluminum foil. Place the pig on a large roasting pan and pour the
reserved marinade over the pig. Place the pig in the oven. Roast the
pig in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes per pound, about 5
hours, basting and turning the pig every hour. For unstuffed pig, roast
at 350 degrees for 15 minutes per pound. Internal temperature should be
about 155 to 160 degrees for both methods. Remove the pig from the oven
and allow the pig to rest for about 30 minutes before slicing.
wow. you don’t often see such graphic detail in animal recipes, but i guess you have to call a pig a pig. in any case the whole thing (obviously) grosses me out, and it makes me wonder how i was able to suppress the whole "piglet" idea for 32 years. it has also now occurred to me that the ever-popular (and ever-so-gross) "pig-on-a-spit" that you see at a backyard pig roast (also charmingly called a pig-pickin’ in north carolina) must also be suckling pigs. the way we raise pigs in today’s agribusiness, there’s no way those piggies are full-grown. sigh.
i’ve mentioned this before, and i know it’s kind of weird, but for whatever reason the "baby animals" thing is more poignant for me. everything about animal exploitation bothers me on some level, but the babies hit me particularly hard. the poor little veal calves, the male chicks who are considered "waste" in the egg industry and just ground up alive, sweet little lambs… and now the piglets. poor babies.