Monday, October 8, 2018

Letter from the Portuguese

In the night, when we opened the shutters of the old villa, we could smell the forest fires up in the hills, and hear the dogs barking.  I had apocalyptic dreams of Manhattan being consumed by earthquakes and fire.

The days were gorgeous, warm but not humid, and on the nights when there were no fires the temperatures plunged twenty degrees, pleasurably cool, and the stars came out.  We closed the shutters in the daylight, to keep the cool night in, and walked the estate picking the most extraordinary fruit right off the vines and trees:  quince and figs and pears, and all sorts of grapes.  They were just to ripen and fall where they may, the villa used solely as an airbnb now.

In the afternoon, I drove around with my friend, the Galloping Gourmand, on his assignment to cover the preparation and consumption of young, milk-fed pigs in the little towns outside Porto.  He would push his rental car at exorbitant speeds through the narrow, cobbled streets of the silent, dusty villages, torturing the stick shift, burning rubber.  No one seemed to notice.

At the pig restaurants we went in to see the cooking of the young pigs.  Stripped of their hides, gutted, smeared with fat and garlic and salt, then skewered on a steel pole from the anus through mouth, then thrust into an oven heated by the burning of old grapevines.

While he ascertained through a translator the exact temperature at which to roast the pigs, I racked my brain for analogies.  The pigs like Gary Sanchez?  Like how we'd like to see Coops Cashman?  None came.

Later, they were cut up and served to us, every remaining part of the pig, right down to the tail, our translator's favorite—if done right, the tail should stick straight up—and including the cheeks, ears, jaws, etc.  It is a somewhat unnerving experience to eat from a piece that includes the teeth used to eat, but I did.  We were offered some of the brains, as well, soft and white, and I ate that as well, thinking, This will be my offering to the juju gods.

It was all delicious, the skin crackled and heavenly.  Served with fresh vegetables, and two kinds of lamb cooked in wines, and exquisite red wines, including sparkling red, and then a coconut cake and delicious cheeses with a tomato marmalade for dessert.

Later, they took us back past the kitchens and into the slaughterhouse, right there, where the little pigs were kept in a spotless tile enclosure.  When we all walked in, five men and a woman, they cowered back together against a wall, looking helplessly up at us.  Pigs, they say, are smarter than dogs, and they knew exactly what was going on, which seemed to me cruel.

But it didn't stop me from eating them.












3 comments:

TheWinWarblist said...

We had a pig roast for my 50th. I helped pull the pork. I still get chills thinking of it.

Alphonso said...

I had such a pig, once, in Barcelona..two light years ago. Maybe three.

I think Papa Hemingway was in the bar with me.

And it was in a far more commercial, tourist site than your experience.

Your descriptions make we want to buy my plane tickets now.

So six of you did all of this eating, right? I mean, after you chew the tail and swallow the eyeballs, who could eat lamb?

I was thinking you must be superhuman.

Then again, maybe you are.

Keep eating the pig and do not shave.

See you tonight, at the ballpark.

They have hotdogs.





Local Bargain Jerk said...

Dogs look up to you.
Cats look down at you.
Pigs treat you as an equal.