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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Porkfest

Writing an unsatisfying post is like eating an unsatisfying meal: it has to be done but it is vaguely disappointing. What to do about a night like last night if you are compulsive enough to write every night but not inventive enough to find something, really, to say?

The best thing is to write better the next day, satisfy the intellectual taste buds with heartier fare. Will meatloaf do?

The first time I made meatloaf for my husband (long before he was my husband, I imagine) I made it the way my mother did: flat. My mother liked her meat well done enough that it could be fairly called burnt. So when she made meatloaf she would make a loaf and flatten one end into a thin rectangle, like a small padded envelope, just for herself. After my father and older sister had both left the house, my mother and I stopped bothering with the loaf part because we both preferred the caramelized, slightly blackened taste of our flat loaf. We ate it this way for so long that when I made it for my husband it didn’t occur to me it was a strange thing to do. He was mildly horrified by the result and it was one of those times when I was forced to look back on my childhood at something that seemed perfectly rational and normal and say, “Oh, was that weird?”

So I’m back to loafy meat loaf although I suspect I’d still love it flat. I’ve adapted my mother’s recipe only slightly, adding one egg and some breadcrumbs because otherwise, in its loaf form, I can’t cut the slices without them falling apart. I also added bacon because, as porkfest demonstrated, there’s nothing that can’t be improved by adding little pork.

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For twelve years we’ve had a New Yorker Cartoon taped to our refrigerator: a disgruntled butcher is speaking to a customer as she stares, wild-eyed, into the meat case. He says, “That’s pork – the meat of the pig. It makes an excellent substitute for tofu.” What is it about pork? What inspires such love that this cartoon can still make me laugh after 4,000 viewings? What makes the meat of the pig so irresistible that a whole class of vegetarians exists called bacon-a-tarians: committed vegetarians who have given up all forms of animal but refuse to give up bacon? All I know is that the love of pork inspired a family gathering this weekend called Porkfest.

Porkfest involved family and family friends (many of whom happen to have birthdays in January & February) getting together at my sister’s house and bringing on the pork. Our contribution was as follows: a pork belly, smoked for six hours & served on flat Chinese buns w/scallions & cilantro, bacon jam, pig cupcakes, Porkslap beer and a t-shirt from our new neighborhood butcher, Fleisher’s that says, “Bacon The Gateway Meat.” My brother-in-law made an absolutely divine pork shoulder called Bo Ssam, a recipe featured in the New York Times created by chef David Chang of Momofuko. Our friends brought a variety of pickled side dishes: homemade kimchi, pickled jalapenos, pickled cucumbers and apples, and ginger scallion sauce. My sister’s buddies brought beet salad and delicious wine. Dessert was a free-for all which included, gin soaked prunes in chocolate, a semolina orange cake, pecan pie, home made cookies and cupcakes and, because there’s something wrong with us, three kinds of ice cream.

We all complained that we ate too much but it wasn’t that convincing, in the same breath we were planning Porkfest 2013.

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