The Eat with Care blog
Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)
Roast pig, get married
by Candra Merreign, Humaneitarian’s research assistant
The biggest thing on my summer to-do list, which I completed on September 15, was to plan, coordinate, and decorate, a wedding. Oh, and to attend it as well, seeing as it was my own! The hodge-podge theme I attempted to follow was “vintage country.” I had visions of mason jars being repurposed everywhere, wildflower bouquets, and an aisle made of tree branches leading to a nature-made alter where my best friend would become my husband. My friends, on the other hand, envisioned a redneck BBQ at the Rod and Gun Club. Granted, our location for the ceremony was the Monadnock (New Hampshire) Rod and Gun Club, followed by a reception at the Jaffrey VFW, but I insisted they trust my plan and not blame all of my decisions on my pregnancy brain. Oh, did I mention having a baby was on my summer to-do list as well?
Once everyone was on board with the wedding “theme,” we moved on to planning another aspect of the wedding: the rehearsal dinner. Once again I wanted something laid back, down to earth, and open to everyone. I thought a potluck sounded great, but then someone mentioned the idea of having a pig roast. Now, when I think “pig roast,” I think redneck BBQ, so how was I going to have a pig roast and still convince my friends my wedding was going to be beautiful and romantic, not redneck and backwoods? Nevertheless, I decided it would be a good idea. I had a few reasons for making the choice, but my main one was that, the more I thought about it, the more it actually fit perfectly into my ideal wedding visions. I wanted to create a wedding that used what the land had to offer, and until then I hadn’t imagined incorporating the food into this theme. My husband’s family had done pig roasts before and he told me they get them locally from Shaw’s Pig Farm in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, which is a few towns over. Pigs are raised there and butchered locally; my brother-in-law offered to take the day off from work to sit in the yard and roast one for the wedding. I agreed.
As soon as I agreed, it seemed like pigs worked their way into my life any way they could. My next book to be reviewed for Humaneitarian was about a couple who takes in a stray pig who then becomes a celebrity! (Review coming soon). Then Tony came home from work one day and jokingly asked if we could create a pig pen in our yard. My mind immediately went wild, rearranging our yard and thinking of people I could call for scrap wood and chain link to build a home for my new best friend. Before I let my imagination get the best of me, I stopped to actually listen to Tony explain what he meant. Some people he worked with, who have pigs of their own, were asked to rescue some pigs that were being given up by a local couple who had decided they wanted to try homesteading at their rental house. They bought a few pigs and turkeys, and their intention was to butcher the animals for food, but once their landlords found out, they were evicted, which left the animals homeless. Thankfully the world is full of good people and the animals were rescued and put in good homes. We briefly entertained the idea of taking in one of the pigs ourselves to use for the rehearsal dinner, but for the amount of people we were expecting the pig would not be big enough by the time of the wedding.
We visited these pigs, though, and when we did, I saw love in a young girl’s eyes. My daughter fell head over heels for those little ones. She wasn’t scared of them and jumped right in. My husband and I realized immediately the importance of introducing her to animals and the roles they play in our lives. But while we wanted her to love and respect the animals we were planning to have on our land in the future, we also wanted her to understand that we raise these animals to provide us with resources. We agreed that if our children were raised from an early age around animals that were treated with respect and integrity, especially when consuming them, they would never know any different. At least this is what we hope and pray for.
The day of the rehearsal dinner, my now-husband and his brother set up camp on my mother-in-law’s yard with a cooler full of beverages, lawn chairs and a homemade pig roaster which they borrowed from a friend. They prepped the pig by injecting garlic bbq sauce under the skin on one side and Italian dressing on the other. The also filled the pig with onions and potatoes. Once it was seasoned and prepped they tied it shut with chicken wire and placed it on a spit, which is a metal rod that rotates over a charcoal fire. Once the pig was cooked to their desire they carved it and separated the meat into pans by the different seasonings. The guests were welcome to eat the meat however they chose, either alone or on a sandwich, and eat they did. The meat was amazing and we partied well into the night. A few of the guys in the wedding party finished off what few leftovers we had with pulled pork sandwiches the next day, while I frantically ran around town taking care of last-minute wedding details.
Knowing that a few weeks before our big pig roast our impressionable little two-year-old had fallen in love with the same animal that would be on display on a spit during her parents’ wedding weekend was a little worrisome. We figured worse case we could use it as a platform for our first discussion about where food comes from. Along with all of the other worries that come with planning your own wedding , exactly how this conversation would play out went through my mind numerous times during the week leading up to the big day. But to our delight, the night of our rehearsal dinner when she saw the pig roasting in all of its glory, our wonderful animal-loving daughter did not even flinch, just loaded her plate and danced the night away.
Candra Merreighn is earning an MS in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire. Her focus is on hunting as a conservation method. She is Humaneitarian’s summer research assistant.