Monday, May 23, 2005

I keep walking out of my windowless office and into the hallway to study the sky, which is grey and spitting rain, as it has been for at least forty days and forty nights. I’m wondering if the farmers will brave the elements and set up at the Central Square market today. I mean, it isn’t really raining-raining, it’s just overcast and a little drizzly. Farmers are tough, right? They’ll be there.

I think I’m engaging in some serious wishful thinking.

Fortunately, I am not despairing as one might expect, given the weather, because today I got a call from the pig-guy. The pig-guy is the farmer who will shortly be selling my friends and me a whole, organic, traditionally-raised Tamworth pig, all slaughtered and frozen in nice, barbecue-ready pieces. This is our third foray into buying meat directly from the farmer. I’m just finishing up the last of the quarter cow we bought in January, and I have a good bit left of my portion of the two lamb we bought in February. This is definitely the way to buy meat.

For one thing, you meet your farmer, and that’s nice. I like having a connection to the person who raises the food for my table. I like supporting a local farm economy – maybe if we all try hard, not every inch of Massachusetts will be covered in suburban developments and condos. The price is right; I’m paying $5.50 a pound for organic pork, which is good. The animals are treated well, allowed to roam outdoors, and generally raised in a way that is sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

But the most important factor is the taste. The lamb we bought was mild, delicately flavored and very tender. Conversely, the grass-fed beef was assertively beefy, with a gamey edge. This beef will spoil you. My boyfriend, who seem to be somewhat amused by my latest obsession when I first talked about buying a big old hunk of cow, has been completely converted. The other night he ordered a burger at what was once a favorite pub for burgers. Halfway through, he put down the burger and said, “Your beef is too good; I can’t eat this stuff anymore. Yours tastes like meat, but this just tastes like the condiments.”

I felt fully vindicated.

Now, the pig we are buying is a Tamworth, which meant nothing to me a few days ago. But, through the wonders of Google, I now know that the Tamworth is a very old British breed, prized for good quality meat, especially bacon, and for the fact that they are amazing rooters. Apparently, they can be used to clear scrubby land. A study at Bristol University in the 1990s found them to be the best-tasting of all heritage or commercial pork varieties. But they don’t thrive indoors (which just goes to show that they are sensitive, intelligent creatures as well), so they aren’t normally raised commercially. Which isn’t surprising – when was the last time you had any pork that actually tasted like, well, pork?

With any luck, I’ll have my digital camera up and running by the time we go to fetch the pig.

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