In most instances and for most people, discovering a fleshy torso-shaped object wrapped in an oversized garbage bag in the back of a friend’s car does not immediately conjure thoughts of a delicious meal. Even knowing what it was, I couldn’t help making any number of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”–inspired jests about destroying the evidence from a particularly regrettable encounter with a prefrosh, as two guys and I struggled to unload the 144 pounds of meat onto the massive grill rented especially for the occasion. After 20 hours of slow cooking over carefully stoked and maintained embers, however, the shape in the bag will not render up murder indictments, but succulent pork for the 200-plus expected guests at the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s second annual pig roast.
The first pig roast was the brainchild of Dave Thier ’09. After he repeatedly expressed his overwhelming desire to roast a pig, his bosses at the YSFP decided that a pig roast would present an excellent opportunity to convince people of the down-home American roots of the slow food movement. “A lot of people think of slow food as a French thing or an Italian thing, but it’s a really American tradition of gathering around and celebrating with food,” said Anastatia Curley ’07, YSFP communications director. “And we wanted to make it a Yale tradition, too.”
Thier managed to procure a 122-pound sow from a local pig farmer for last year’s roast, a daunting affair, as the farmer was all but unreachable. As Thier wryly recalls, “You would think that the one thing you could expect from a pig farmer would be a willingness to sell pork products.” Then Thier realized he had a bigger problem on his hands: a whole pig he had no idea how to cook. Enter Jack Hitt, frequent contributor to NPR’s This American Life and New Haven’s resident pig roast veteran, who schooled the YSFP workers through a long night of shoveling fresh embers into the grill to sustain the correct temperature for moist meat.
Last night, another generation of YSFP workers employed the same dark arts in anticipation of the moment this afternoon when the pig will be taken off the fire, and gloved hands will break open the skin and pull steaming meat off the bones (the origin of the term “pulled pork”), to be served with coleslaw, collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and sweet tea. As Curley says, “At the end of classes there’s a celebratory moment, and what better way to celebrate than bringing people together with food?” A pig like that you don’t eat all at once.