Porking Out

It may have started with an increasing interest in charcuterie and cured meats—witness the success of Seattle’s Salumi, as well as Fatted Calf and Fra’Mani in the Bay Area—but our passion for pork seems to be growing unchecked. Everywhere you look, it’s all piggy, all the time.

Last week The New York Times heralded the new American love affair with salumi by presenting a primer on coppa, lardo, mortadella, and more (registration required), and claiming “the meat slicer could be the first appliance to earn a place on the kitchen counter since the espresso machine.”

At the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Food Editor Hsiao-Ching Chou discusses how chefs love pork belly—the cut that gets cured into bacon. “If you want to get a chef all hot and bothered,” she writes, “whisper ‘pork belly’ in her ear.” Chou says a local meat wholesaler reports that its pork belly sales have doubled in the past three months alone.

Even Gourmet magazine’s Ruth Reichl is getting into the act. In her weekly newsletter she reports, “I cooked the single best dinner I’ve made all year … leg of baby pig that was rich, tender, moist, and succulent, with skin so crisp it crackled when you took a bite.” Her organic, milk-fed porcelet came from D’Artagnan, though at $382.85 for half a pig, this level of porcine bliss is an investment.

Not even the gripping article last December in Rolling Stone about the horrific conditions under which Smithfield Foods raises a good portion of the nation’s pork seems to have dampened our ardor for pig.

What is it that fuels our piggy passion? Is it the lure of the forbidden—pork is off-limits to followers of two of the world’s major religions—or just the pleasure of some quality fatty crackle?

Sara Dickerman delved into the topic last December in an article for Slate on “The Development of the Piggy Confessional,” her look at why even food writers are obsessed with bacon and the rest. “Unless you abstain,” she writes, “pork is hard not to love. From the crackle of its skin to the strange chew of an ear, from the velvety threads of pork shoulder in confit to the blood that fills a minerally black sausage, pigs are edibility incarnate.”

Nuff said, pass the bacon.