Monday, September 10

Lone Star Dispatch: Anthropomorphic, Cannibalistic Swine

 From the keyboard of guest blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose computer smells vaguely of brisket.

A strange phenomenon pervades the signs of barbecue joints across the state of Texas: pigs acting like people. In my memory, nary a bovine graces a barbecue sign that’s not in the cooked or soon-to-be smoked form. At Big John’s Feedlot Bar-B-Q in Big Spring, Texas, a painting on the window shows the pitmaster wielding a cleaver in one hand while dragging a dazed steer with the other. This is how the poor cattle are portrayed, while the overt anthropomorphism is reserved for swine—in this, the land of beef barbecue.

Photos by Nicholas McWhirter. Click to enlarge

 A pig surveys the pit on a banner at Hog Heaven across town in Big Spring. On a mural inside Mumphord’s Place in Victoria, a hog raises a fork and a platter of meat victoriously, presumably because he’s not on the platter himself. On the side of La Exclusiva in Pharr, Texas, a jovial, sombrero-clad pig stirs a pot of carnitas, while a batch of barbacoa sits unattended. I guess we are to assume the cow is in the pot.

Elsewhere, you can find a hog on a motorcycle in Leakey, another with fork and knife at the ready and a napkin around its neck in Marshall, and even a cigar-smoking pig in a toque in Cedar Hill. After so much repetition of the theme, it’s easy to get used to the oddity. But when I darkened the door of Johnny’s Barbecue in Midland, I recoiled. A scene up on the wall went a step too far. It was a seated pig clad in Western wear, happily biting into a rack of ribs.

A few days later, yet another blatantly cannibalistic pig was spotted in San Angelo, where a muscular swine snacked on a saucy rib on the sign above Bubba’s Smokehouse. Those ribs turned out to be disappointing—otherwise, I would have thought the pig was on to something. 

Follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.