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June 18, 2008
Honor the Pig With a
Helping of Salt Pork
a species of primates that eats meat, few appreciate our special
relationship with the pig, a wonderful animal that’s both intelligent
and willing to wallow in filth. It is a magical creature that has
bequeathed to our kitchens ham and pork chops and ribs and also bacon.
It is an animal that can be consumed at all points of the day without
worry about breaking social norms.
fact, it gives and gives and gives, even providing us with things few
consider, like salt pork.
There are no great secrets about salt pork. It is pork that has been
heavily salted. It is bacon, but without the bacon flavoring.
is not a standalone meat, typically. That is, it is something that is
usually added to provide flavoring for other foods, and as an added
delight – who walks among us who would not like to find a little nugget
of meat while poking through something else.
The flavor of pork itself has a special relationship with the legume.
You can find it often cooked with a pot of baked beans, and it lends
itself well to black-eyed peas, themselves one of life’s earthiest
earthy are black-eyed peas that the only way to make them even earthier
is to pair them with collard greens. It becomes a meeting of the earth
with something that grows in it.
also starts with two big bowls of water.
Cut the salt pork into pieces and drop them into the water and let it
soak overnight. This will remove some of the extra saltiness necessary
to preserve the pork. Into the other, add raw black-eyed peas. This is
necessary to soften them up.
The next day, you will start not with either of those, but with the
greens. Remove, as much as possible, the stems. You are after the
lustrous leaves here, not stems.
Roll them into a long tube. Stifle any urge to light this on fire and
smoke it. The leaves are considerably less nutritious when consumed in
Instead, cut them into strips.
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil at the bottom of a pot. Add the
leaves, peas and pork and cover with enough vegetable broth to cover all
of it. Add also a dash or two of vinegar for zing and to help break down
tough leaves. Cover and simmer until the peas are soft.
How long will that take? Some questions are best not asked. But stir
occasionally throughout, and if you’ve done things properly, most of the
broth will be absorbed by the peas.
Once finished, add salt to taste and also a liberal helping of crushed
Eat and enjoy, while also allowing a thought or two to pass through your
mind in honor of the pig. It has given to you its belly, so that you
might honor the earth in which it wallowed. If you feel the need, also
ponder whether this constitutes irony.
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