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Maxed Out

Going whole hog at Dusty’s



By G.D. Maxwell

The swine is a noble animal. To wit:

Pigs and ponies, pigs in pokes.

Pigs in stories, pigs in jokes.

Pigs got tails, curled all around.

I like mine cooked nice and brown.

I wrote that noble verse to woo a cowgirl studying agriculture at a university I was attending. I was not studying agriculture but was managing to avoid getting drafted and sent to Vietnam. It never occurred to me that a girl who grew up on a cattle ranch might be a vegetarian. It was a lesson in the politics of food and, thankfully, the last time I ever wrote verse.

A famous French foodie – no, I don’t remember his name but that doesn’t mean I’m making this up – once commented, in French naturally, "The pig is but a giant dish which walks while waiting to be served." Of course, up until the 19 th century, pigs roamed the streets of Paris freely. They efficiently disposed of waste Frenchmen were too delicate to dispose of themselves but not too delicate to produce, if you get my drift.

"Keep Paris beautiful," was actually a marketing slogan used to urge Parisians to keep pigs, thus reducing the city payroll for garbagemen. Okay, that last part I made up.

At that point in history, the swine had pretty much overcome the earlier defamation it suffered at the hands of Jews and Muslims. And while I fear to tread on the sacred views of others, I’m not sure I can completely cozy up to anyone who willingly foregoes pigmeat for reasons so spurious as religious proscription. Please, no hate mail.

Anyway, to get back to pigs, if it weren’t for American immigrants with names like Hormel and Oscar Meyer, and most definitely without Upton Sinclair having written The Jungle , swine would probably have risen to the top of the food chain, meatwise. But forces including the rising popularity of hot dogs, the waste-not-want-not mindset of meatpackers, and a string of exposés following The Jungle , gave rise to the unfortunate phrase that called into question all things porcine. To wit: "Everything but the oink."

"Everything but the oink" described the parts of the pig that went into sausage making. Not your good, Old World kind of sausages, but your cheapass hot dogs. "Lips and peckers" was a cruder description of the same thing. A real turnoff, foodwise. Even for a pork lover.

But pigs have pretty much wallowed their way back into the hearts of meat-eaters and onto the tables of finer dining establishments. And why not? You never hear stories of Mad Pig disease. Modern breeding methods have yielded pigs with less fat, more muscle and the best tasting ribs any animal could ask for. Today’s swine are lean, mean, eatin’ machines.

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