It’s believed that the Chinese first began domesticating our friend the pig as early as 5000 BC and been dining on them ever since. The reason for that is pretty simple and probably holds true to this day. Pigs are omnivores. That means they aren’t too particular when it comes to what they ingest and their digestive system has evolved to such a state that they can feed on just about anything. Plants, insects, roots and vegetables, other animals or their carcasses and even little baby piglets are all fair game.
Everything but the squeal
Besides being a food staple, the Chinese found other uses for parts of the pig that were deemed inedible and to some extent still hold true to this day. In the days of old, their hides were used to make shoes and shields, their bones were sharpened and turned into weapons and the bristles that covered their body were turned into [paintbrush|paintbrushes| that produced many a fine work of art. Since they were introduced into Western society, pigs made life easier for many a farmer. Since they have a natural tendency to stick their sensitive snouts to the ground and burrow for roots, the ground was easier to plow and planting season was made a bit easier. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, their fondness for any type of food made it easier for farmers to figure out what to do with the garbage.
That’s a lotta pork!
According to our friends over at Wikipedia, pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world. On average, it provides close to forty percent of the daily meat protein intake. More so if you’re just like Homer Simpson and share his penchant for pork chops.
Waste not, want not
Most of us who are carnivorous in nature are probably familiar with the good old standbys such as ham and bacon but our friend the pig is so much more than that. The following is listing of some of the favorite parts of the animal and what it is typically used for.
Note: There are different naming conventions for the various body parts based on cultural issues so since I’m American, that’s the terminology I feel safer with. If somewhere along the line I screw up, please let me know.
Not exactly what I’d like to see gracing my dining room table when it’s time for Sunday dinner to roll around but the pigs head can be boiled down and used to make stock or soups. If you’re really venturesome or perhaps starving to death, you can lope off the ears and either deep fry them or bake them. /me shudders
Delicious. The pork loin can either be served whole and roasted or cut up into pork chops and cooked in just about any way imaginable.
A borgo summertime favorite, usually marinated and slow roasted over a charcoal grill under low heat until the meat is so tender it just falls from the bones.
I’m not a big fan of pork shoulder. It’s a bitch to cook and the meat somehow just doesn’t have the all around pork goodness that I’m looking for.
Not even in my drunkest moment with someone waving a fistful of cash in my face would I consider making a meal out of these.
This is where your Easter ham, after its been cured, comes from. That is of course if you’re not of the Jewish or Muslim persuasion.
Okay, check that, I meant to include Hindu’s, Buddhists, vegetarians, Seventh Day Adventists, the Amish and a whole host of others in that statement.
I think you Brits might call them “trotters” but here in the States they’re usually smoked and included in soups and stews. The same goes for the jowls.
No, no, a thousand times no. These are the pig’s intestines that are used to make chitlins. See dannyes w/u there for a good description of what you’re in for should you decide to go ahead with them. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Little left over bits of pig are usually ground up and used in the making of sausages. For a comprehensive list, see Everything wurst writeup.
Pork, the other white meat
While the ad campaign a few years back was quite successful in bringing pork to the forefront when it comes to dinner, technically speaking , they are incorrect. For dietary and nutritional purposes, the honcho’s over at the USDA classify pork as a red meat.
Last but not least, always remember to cook whatever cut of pork you’re having through. While instances of trichinosis have declined greatly over the years, eating raw or undercooked pork can increase your chance of contracting that no so charming bedfellow.
Unless of course, you’re just like me.