So, I am a List Girl. I am one of those people that makes a list for everything. And when I say, “everything,” I mean: Everything. I am also one of those people who will make a list, add things I have already done to the list, just so that I can immediately cross them off and feel like I’ve accomplished something. I have folders upon folders of lists. Lists tacked up all over the place at work, stashed in drawers, laying on the table at home and hanging from my refrigerator. “To do” lists, Christmas lists, recipes to make lists, grocery shopping lists, old lists, new lists, lists of lists. Lots of people have a list of things they would like to do before they die. I, for one, like to think of these little adventures as things to experience while I’m alive, but that’s beside the point. One thing has been my list for quite some time, just waiting for the right opportunity, is a pig roast.
Vegetarians, beware. You might want to not scroll down the rest of this post. You might want to just close it nicely and come back in a few days when I have posted about something else. The last thing I want to do is horrify you with my picture of a roasted pig. The sight of a pig roasted in its entirety is not for the light of heart. But the reality of the matter is that all the meat that we eat comes from an animal that was once running around on its two or four legs and is running around no longer. I don’t mind this fact – I grew up on a farm where we slaughtered and ate our chickens when the time came, and I understand the circle of life that leads to my plate. BUT, I do try to be wise about the meat I do eat and the farmers I support by buying it...like trying to choose meat from local farms that treat their animals well while they are alive and that don’t inject them with hormones or chemicals.
Our local Slow Food group gave me the perfect opportunity to finally cross a pig roast off my list: a rare and wonderful opportunity to eat a locally raised (raised, in fact, about 50 yards from where we ate), slow-roasted organic pig – complete with a dinner grown and picked from the land where we were eating, with the farmers (and the family) who made it all possible sitting right down with the rest of us and reaping the benefits of their labor.
On August 26, LB and I treaded out to Creative Growers Farm in Noti, Oregon – where the pig roast was hosted by David and Laurie Hoyle. These are farmers that care about the animals they raise - feeding them grains and organic vegetables they raise on their farm, letting them run about in big, open spaces, giving them individual attention and caring for them in the best way they know how so that they have good lives before they are used for meat. In some ways, it goes back to how I imagine it used to be - when we had to raise and forage for our own food, can and put up for the winter not because it's enjoyable and saves money like it is now, but because it was absolutely necessary...back in the days when there weren't hormones and chemicals to ply our animals with to make them mature faster, grow bigger or have more fat.
The meal was prepared on-site by none other than executive chef Adam Bernstein and Melissa Williams from Adam’s Place Restaurant in Eugene, who built the cinder-block oven where the pig began roasting at 5 AM the morning of the event, prepped and cooked all the veggies, and made sure all the food was spectacular (and oh, it was). A whole lot of local volunteers and Slow Food members and a whole lot of work went into making the meal a beautiful and smooth venture (Thank yous all around).
They began the meal with ripe heirloom tomatoes, still warm from the sun and still scented of the vine they grew on just a few hundred feet away and each one with a unique and distinguishable flavor (my favorite was the Chocolate Cherokee). The kind of appetizer that I would never think of but that is absolutely perfect in its simplicity because of the quality of the ingredients.
We got a tour of the farm and an introduction to the farmers as well as notable local chefs (like Leather Storrs from Portland’s Noble Rot) while treaded the beautiful grounds, met the animals around the farm, and sipped on our hop-laden local Ninkasi beer and glasses of fragrant pinot noir and crisp pinot gris from Territorial Winery.
Let me just tell you that there is nothing like slow-roasted pork. The kind of succulent, incredibly juicy meat that literally falls off the bone with the kind of crispy, caramelized skin that you get from roasting an entire pig in the ground is just not something you can do in the oven in your kitchen. Not to mention how amazing it tastes when it’s paired with freshly picked and grilled heirloom zucchini, grilled marinated eggplant, a panzanella salad, freshly baked bread, and a perfectly executed zabaglione with fresh blueberries for dessert.
If you get the opportunity to share in an experience similar to this one – take it. Not only so that you can mark it off you own “list,” but so that you can really see what slow food really tastes like...it’s not just a meal, or even the ingredients of the food (quality as they may be) – it’s surrounding yourself with people that care about what they are doing and why they are doing it, eating food that was lovingly cared for along its entire journey to your plate, and knowing in your heart that you’re making informed choices and supporting something that is just honestly good...and I don't just mean the taste.