Recently I ate my pig. I have no qualms or regrets, although I have to admit to having had some mixed feelings on the day she was actually despatched by the pig-man.
I was born and bred a townie, and we Londons have always aquired our meat from the supermarket in plastic trays and cling-film.
The Otaki lifestyle
Since moving to Otaki though, my family has become immersed in a semi-rural community where quite a bit of bartering goes on.
We swap home-milled timber for home-killed animals, organic milk for home-grown garlic, and the earthy practicalities of food-farming are more directly observable.
This has occasionally been a bit of a culture shock for me, deriving my livelihood as I do from involvement in the gentler arts, spending most of my working day in front of a computer screen writing songs.
I have had to kill the occasional egg-bound chicken, and that usually necessitates several therapy sessions.
So I didn’t plan to have a pig. We have friends whose teenage boys hunt, and in a weak moment (surprising how a few margueritas can bring on a weak moment) I agreed to take a tiny piglet they had caught in the bush.
Feral and traumatised
The generous donors did not mention that this might in fact be illegal within the town environs, and it duly arrived early the next hangover in a cat-cage, quite feral and obviously traumatised by its new unfamiliar suburban surroundings.
We have a small orchard up the back of our place which my wife tends lovingly, and where we keep half a dozen chickens and kid ourselves that the cost of chook food and the effort involved in chook maintenance is preferable and more economic than buying eggs.
I quickly ran around inspecting the perimeter and blocking up all the piglet-sized holes. Ignorant and uninterested in the piglet’s gender, we named it after one of the hunting boys who had been eyeing up our 15-year old daughter; figuring they were both ultimately destined for a similar fate.
The pig seemed to take to its new home very quickly and happily. It rooted up the ground a bit so we had a friend help put a ring through its nose, which did the job.
It slept with the chickens and loved the chook food. It grew very quickly and we stopped getting eggs. We discovered the pig liked eggs. Then one day we discovered that the pig liked chicken. The pig was locked out of the chook run, and the remaining chooks were locked in.
A friend at the local market garden kindly offered to keep a bin out back for past-use-by-date fruit and veg, and at the same time our daughter’s relationship status on Facebook reverted to ‘single’ and the hunting boy was granted a reprieve.
‘Penray,’ after the market garden
The pig was renamed Penray, after the market garden. I must have spent hours elbow-deep in rotting vegetation separating cabbage leaves from lettuce (she prefered lettuce), and cutting the skin off pumpkins. She loved the seeds.
Summer came, and the fruit trees began to produce. We discovered she liked plums, apples and pears. Her preferred method was to break off the lower branches of the fruit trees.
My wife began to lose enthusiasm for pig-farming, especially after the now German shepherd-sized pig took an investigatory mouthful of her skirt.
It was decided that the pig was now big enough to be converted into consumable protein. I consulted a friend who had built a spit-roast and it was decided Penray would be the guest of honour at a bit of a do.
A neighbour wandered past and texted me to advise that Penray had escaped into my 95-year old next-door neighbour’s section and was happily chewing through her lettuces.
We were hundreds of miles away, and my fevered imagination had the pig running out on to the street, being hit by a car, someone being injured and me being in jail for having a pig in town. My brilliant friend lured Penray back into our section with some zucchinis and re-secured the zone.
But where was the pig man?
I rang the pig man on Monday. He was sorry he forgot and would be there Tuesday. Tuesday came and went. I rang him again on Wednesday. He would be there Thursday. On Thursday he came with his rifle and headed up to the orchard. My wife went inside and turned the TV up loud.
I went next door to tell the neighbour to expect a gun shot. I heard it on the way over, but pressed on feeling it was important to complete my neighbourly mission. Needless to say, the dear old thing never heard anything, but it gave me something to do and think about while the deed was being done.
I came back down the driveway and cherrio’d the pig man. The pig was lying immobile (not surprisingly) on the tray of the ute. It’s face was stained red and it was emitting a fountain of urine. This, I thought, is indeed the sharp end of the business.
We invited the family from whom we had aquired the pig, and their boys. We invited the friend who helped put the ring in her nose, and he came with his grandson. We invited our friend who worked at the gardens, and her daughter, and the other friend who had rescued the neighbour’s lettuces and recaptured the pig. We invited the neighbour.
We invited the bloke who had built and was lending the spit roast, and he came with his kids. We invited a South African friend who was an experienced wildlife spit roaster, and his family.
I invited some vegan friends, warning them in advance that they might find it traumatising
They came anyway and contributed to the whole community vibe.
We mixed up bastes, glazes and a citrus concoction to inject into the meat with a horse needle we borrowed from a friend who came with her family.
Some people brought fish and paua, some others brought bread and salads and desserts. We stood around the spit roast for about six hours, drinking beer and recounting stories about Penray, and then as the sun was going down, we ate her