Today begins the annual pig slaughter at my home. It is always a momentous occasion. Of its many unforgettable moments I think my favorite is when the pig’s carcass has been split in half lengthwise, and laid out on our antique oak butcher board.
A side of a pig is one of the great wonders of the natural world. Here intersects the life of an amazing animal with the nourishment and conviviality of people. A shoulder is a cluster of muscles, tendons, etc. that enable this cloven hoofed animal to amble through pasture or woods. It is likewise the perfect object for barbecuing and pulling unto a feast fit for the marriage celebration of a princess. The side that provides insulation for vital organs can be smoked and broiled in strips whose odor speaks of Sunday morning with family, and whose savor is perhaps the most universally approved of tastes. The rear leg that renders a pig truck-like in strength is transformed through months or years of salt and sugar curing into a food of connoisseurs and backwoodsman alike.
Were there not so much to do during the slaughter it would be worth standing back for a while. Studying that side carefully one can see, maybe even smell and taste, so many moments of human life. This too is a great moment of human life. Standing at the butcher board flanked with friends and family, there are few places that I would rather be.
Photo: Starting the process of eviscerating. If I look a bit tentative, it is because this is the first pig I ever slaughtered. That was ten years ago, under the watchful eye of my mentor Jimmie Seal. May you be enjoying unending life, Jimmmie; your generosity will not be forgotten.