Friday, October 19

Then You Do the Hog, You Do the Hog of Life

We're off and running! We began this morning fueled by Texas brisket-and-egg breakfast tacos, a collaboration between Tim Byres of Smoke restaurant in Dallas and Lolo Garcia of the fabled Plantation Barbecue truck, which roams the Houston suburb of Richmond. (By the time we remembered to snap a photo, taco #1 was already in our tummy.)

First, Nathalie Jordi led a panel on food politics with rancher Will Harris, restauranteur/pork aficionado Nick Pihakis, and Greg Asbed of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. To be honest, politics aren't always a huge part of our narrative here at the SFA. But if we're truly going to pay attention to the stories behind the food, we need to know the often-hidden stories about who raises our animals and who picks our produce. And we need to honor their work by compensating farmworkers fairly and by treating animals with dignity. Guided by Nathalie, Greg, Nick, and Will brought those issues to the table. And we're grateful that they did.

Randall Kenan of North Carolina gave our keynote address this year, entitled "The Hog of Life." (See post title; cue Dire Straits.) Hailing from southeastern North Carolina, where pigs outnumber people by—well, by a lot—hogs figure prominently into Randall's writing. He says that students frequently ask him what the hogs symbolize in his fiction. Here's how he answers that question: "The hogs don't mean, the hogs are. They aren't symbols, they are characters."

Randall went on to speak about traditional early winter hog-killings, community barbecues, and his most formative hog memory: the mechanics of mating. Some children learn the birds and the bees; Randall's older cousins showed him the boars and the sows. (When he was eight. He was always a precocious child.)

Kenan also hinted that his forthcoming novel will feature a hog stampede down Franklin Street, the main artery of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We can't wait.

Hog killings and hog —um, lovin': what better way to whet our appetites for a lunch of ribs?

Here's Mrs. Desiree Robinson, the longtime matriarch of Memphis's Cozy Corner barbecue restaurant. She smoked us 80 racks of ribs for lunch, and Andy Ticer and Mike Hudman of Andrew Michael and Hog and Hominy restaurants (also in Memphis) masterminded the sides. Playing up their Southern-Italian heritage, the boys dreamed up barbecue spaghetti made with cold-smoked flour, collards with hominy, and white beans with smoked jowl meat. Oh—did we mention the deviled eggs garnished with lardo?

Above, Andy Ticer (l) and Mike Hudman (r) with SFA board member and symposium host chef John Currence of City Grocery.

Since it's hard to blog with sticky fingers, we haven't eaten our ribs yet. We hope you'll excuse us.

Back with more later this afternoon!