The Pleasures of Pig

My handcrafted, blown-glass pig salt-and-pepper shakers. I picked them up at the League of N.H. Craftsmen’s annual fair.

In the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts in vivid detail butchering time at the little house, including several pages dedicated to breaking down the family hog into various delectable pork products — hams, shoulders, side meat, spare-ribs, belly, the head for headcheese, “and the dishpan full of bits to be made into sausage.”

First, though, Pa has to kill the hog. And while Laura is bothered a bit by the pig’s demise — she covers her ears to block out the squealing, even after Pa reassures her that “it doesn’t hurt him … we do it so quickly” — this doesn’t stop her from using his bladder as a plaything after the dirty work is done. (An illustration in the book charmingly depicts Laura and her sister Mary swatting the air-filled, balloon-like bladder back and forth in the yard.)

I remember reading this passage as a child and thinking, “Wow. That’s so cool. I want a pig’s bladder.”

Anyway, the only thing that seems to give Laura more pleasure than the bladder-cum-beachball is roasting the pig’s tail over hot coals, nibbling on the crispy meat, then sharing the bony scraps with her faithful bulldog, Jack.

Clearly, this was the best of times, but why am I telling you about this now? On a blog that worships at the altar of baked goods? Well, I have no good reason, actually, other than to share my passion for all things pig and to remind you to support food producers who respect and use all parts of my pig friends.

And to make the point that I have no problem thinking you’re cute and wanting to eat you.

Perfect Marriage: Cooking & Little House

The Little House Cookbook, in all its bright orange glory.

I have long been a fan of the “Little House On The Prairie” series (the books, not the show so much, but, despite that, I’ve probably seen every episode). Anyway, as a child I read them and reread them, then read them again. I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to stand where she stood. It was my dream to visit all of the Little House sites, Laura’s former homesteads with her family, and I finally visited some of them as an adult. You may laugh, but these trips were just about the only vacations I have ever taken. Forget island paradise. I went to Missouri.

I have no shame. This was, is, and will always be the level of my obsession.
So, you can imagine my glee when I came across “The Little House Cookbook.” Researched and written by Barbara M. Walker, it features more than “100 authentic recipes of classic pioneer food — the food that Laura Ingalls and her family ate as they traveled from the woods of Wisconsin to the Dakota Territory.” … And let’s not forget “Farmer Boy,” Laura’s future husband. That boy had it made in his mother’s New York state kitchen.
Some of the recipes are from a bygone era but well worth trying out today; others are similar to what I sometimes make in my own kitchen. I’ll tackle one soon and let you know how I make out.