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A Pig Roast

In the "Cult of Escapism": A Pig Roast

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Pig Roast

Warning: there are some other graphic photos in this post

Oblivious to his imminent death, the pig lay contently in his nest of burrowed sand. Meanwhile, Josh aimed a long ax, blunt side out, between the pig's ears. He confessed to nerves, “it feels like bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, two strikes.” That is, he didn't want to miss and make this any messier than it was already going to be. Face contorted in concentration, he raised the ax and smashed the skull with a dull thunk. The pig swayed a little, one leg trembled and the eyes closed. Knock out. Home run. Seeing this, Josh lowered the again poised ax and jumped on the pig's back. Kevin handed him a knife, Scott held the convulsing legs and about a minute later, the pig was very, very dead.
Josh, bottom of the ninth

Every four months, we have required Regional Meetings with all the other volunteers in our region and representatives from the office. The office shares news, changes in policy, the next round of things we're going to lose from budget cuts (every time!) and generally get a chance to do a sweeping check of each region. We volunteers also have a chance to share our projects with one another, request technical support and exchange ideas. And uh, we also go to the beach.
Scott digs the hole

Our Regional Leader (RL), Erin, is a third year extension volunteer and is in charge of volunteer support, new site development and maintaining relations with local government agencies. She's been an absolute rock star of an RL and this was to be her last Regional Meeting, so we decided to go big and go pig.

Getting the pig was a process in itself, since we decided to make a local purchase from a volunteer named Jason's community. Around 2:00am the night before Jason was to hike the hour and a half out of his site with the pig, the pig escaped and took off into the forest. Even days later, the exasperation on Jason's face hadn't worn off, “you have no idea what it's like chasing a pig through the forest in the middle of the night.” That's true, Jason, I don't.
Kevin with the kill
Once down from the mountains, the pig spent a night at Erin's house and was then given to two volunteers, Laura and Kendra, to bring 20 minutes down road to the beach. It seemed simple enough, except no cab drivers wanted a pig in their car or even their truck bed. Eventually, Kendra ran into someone from her community with a pickup who was willing to bring the pig down. The cabbies' trepidation was well placed – the pig shat in the truck bed on the way down and cost the girls an extra $4 as a result.
Jason fans the flames
Excitement was high as volunteers arrived in small groups and everyone swung by the pig for a pre-slaughter look at our future meal. We also spent much of the day gathering firewood and rocks and digging the cook hole. There may or may not have been beers involved.
Wrapped and ready
As temporary country-dwellers, we are all now fairly adapted to swinging a machete, chopping firewood and digging holes, but only two of us had any experience with a genuine pig roast. Luckily for everyone, Erin's boyfriend Josh, another volunteer, is a bona fide, overall-wearing country boy with plenty of pig roasting experience. So we put him in charge.
In the hole

He mostly oversaw the efforts the night before the roast and abstained from drinking, knowing that he would be up at dawn to do some pig killin. And sure enough, at dawn, Josh, Kevin, Scott, Ian and I tended the fire and brought the pig right up next to the hole. Josh then knocked it unconscious with an ax and him and Kevin cut its throat, while Scott held the reflexively kicking legs. Hours later, Kevin and Josh would commend each other, in southern accents, over a quick, efficient and effective neck cut. “I really got that jugular pretty good” I heard Kevin saying, with a big smile, and I realized that him and I grew up living very different lives.
Preparing more firewood

We dug about a four foot hole the night before and layered the bottom with a foot of coal. Which was a serious pain in the ass, because all the wood was wet and air doesn't exactly flow through a fire in a four foot hole, so one or two people were constantly fanning the flames and trying to dodge the ensuing smoke, always in vain. On my turn to fan, I cried more than a teenage girl watching Titanic for the first time and spent a good few minutes coughing violently after I tagged out.
Jake axing; what a beach

We left the hard-earned coals to burn overnight and in the morning, covered them with a layer of rocks. The rocks heated as we killed the pig and then stripped the hair. And by we, I mean Josh and Ian, who painstakingly poured almost boiling water over the body and then rubbed the hair off with a dull machete (it was supposed to be dull). Right around this time, every other volunteer had to go to our Meeting – the true purpose of us all being there – and we left Ian and Josh, who are from other provinces, to strip the hair, gut the pig and cut the head off.
My machete contribution

When we got back from the Meeting, we found what just looked like a regular camp fire. They had wrapped the pig in banana leaves, then tin foil, then wire – to hold it together and keep the sand out – and then lowered it on top of the heated rocks. They then covered the body with sand, for insulation, and built another fire on top of it. That way, the pig cooked from top and bottom simultaneously, without us having to do much of anything except wait 10 hours.
Josh - our country boy

So ten hours of sunbathing, swimming, chatting, drinking and Frisbee-playing later, we dug up the pig, took its temperature, fried the meat a little in separate pots for good measure, and then ate the hell out of it. It was a great, greasy mess and damn was it delicious. I ate my fill and then continued eating for another ten minutes. Which I don't recommend doing, but I cut a lot of wood and carried a lot of rocks to get that meat and I wasn't about to eat too little.
Unwrapping the feast

Major props to Josh, who has given me a target level of manliness that will take years of dedicated work to achieve. Also props to Ian, for working his ass off while we all sat in a circle discussing the latest depressing budget cuts and solar light projects. And finally to Erin, cause we did this for and because of her, cause she's been a kick ass Regional Leader and a model volunteer.

For those of you squeamish, gentrified northerners like me that have never had the pleasure of doing something so country as a pig roast, I highly recommend it. It's a porking good time.


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