Pork is of primary importance in Umbrian cooking, and it is still very common in the month of January for most families to slaughter and butcher their own pig, which they have reserved with their trusted pig farmer.
This is normal for me since I am Umbrian, but it’s not for a Swedish man who has been living in Milan for more than a decade.
So when my brother asked my boyfriend, the aforementioned Swedish man, whether he had ever butchered a pig, I saw him turn to me with the astonished expression of a person faced with the dilemma of choosing the appropriate question to ask: “He’s joking, right?” or “Did I understand that correctly?”.
Even I was a bit astonished, to be honest.
I certainly don’t visualize Milanese people slaughtering pigs in their cellar, yet found myself thinking that there must be a tradition in Sweden somewhat similar to ours. Perhaps they don’t kill a pig, obviously, but who knows, a reindeer? A bear? But no, no such tradition, or so it seems.
Once we got past the initial amazement and explained how normal this was, my boyfriend welcomed the idea with genuine enthusiasm and immediately reserved his half a pig and, as a matter of course, his “pork-butchering baptism”.
The initiation of the Swede took place on two separate days: Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday was dedicated to the slaughtering, cleaning and butchering of the pig with the classic padellata di maiale (panful of pork) lunch.
Sunday, on the other hand, was reserved for processing the meat, dividing it into pieces and preparing the cured meats.
I have to admit that, usually, I stay far away from the preparation of the pig to not run the risk of getting involved in some sort of work as an impromptu butcher.
Nevertheless, this time I took part in the process paying careful attention because the conversations between my brother, who speaks with a thick Umbrian accent, and the Swede, who speaks Italian with a Milanese accent, were, undoubtedly, of anthropological interest.
And so it was that, amidst grisly scenes and dubious interludes, the number of dry and fresh sausages and salamis, whether or not to make cotechino and whether it were better to make rolled or flat pancetta were all decided upon.
Although I can say I contributed, in my own small way, to spreading the art of Umbrian pork butchering across regional and national borders, I continue, nevertheless, to prefer that part of pork preparation that includes stuffing my face, which, I assure you, I take part in with great zest!