At the Yale Farm, we make pizza every Friday, but we make pig once a year. Our tradition is only a year old, but I have high hopes that for generations to come, on the last day of classes, Yale students will celebrate by roasting a pig.
Right now we're in the planning stage, swapping recipes, debating whether or not to offer vegetarian side dishes (the general consensus: but collards just taste so much better with a ham hock!), and waiting for a local farmer to slaughter our pig.
There's a lot of talk about the effete, European nature of the slow food movement, and I think events like pig roasts remind us of what Americans have had to offer the world of food.
Lately I've been reading a book enthusiastically titled America Eats!, which revives a 1935 WPA project that had impoverished writers around the US hunting down and recording regional food traditions. The events described--Booya feasts, chitlin struts, pancake breakfasts--tend to involve big, long-cooked meals that bring a community together, whether it's to celebrate a harvest or to raise money for the local fire department. At Yale, we roast our pig on the last day of spring semester classes.
Photo by Sean Fraga
It takes about five or six Yale students, working in shifts, to cook a pig: they watch it for the 20 hours or so it has to cook, making sure it stays around 250 degrees or so, adding the occasional shovelful of charcoal, and basting with apple cider and vinegar.