Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dead Pig Walking!

     I am calmly sitting at my table, waiting for a steaming plate of wild boar, called cinghiale,  nestled on a small pile of soft polenta.   Sipping my wine, and reasoning like a kid who suddenly realizes because ol’ Santa could not possibly deliver all those presents to the whole world,  I consider how many hunters and wild boars would be needed to furnish all the restaurants in Italy that feature wild boar every day.  
     Later I posed this question to my buddy, Alfonso, who has an agritourismo restaurant in the hills outside of Padova.  His answer delivers a crushing blow to my romantic view of Italy.  I am told those so called wild boars are a sham, fradulently labeled as wild, but instead raised on a farm.   (The word for swindlers in Italian is truffatori.)   Consider that wild boar is served in some Italian restaurants in the states.  Are they importing?  A waiter who writes on a blog called Waiter Rants, says that his restaurant uses rabbit, but labels it wild boar.  The word that comes to mind is charlatans (ciarlatani).
     In Italy there are many wild boars roaming the hills, causing trouble,  rooting up the vegetation, and leaving a stinky mess behind.    Encountering a huge mother boar and her piglets when on a hike in the hills can be jeopardous to ones health.  Boars can run very fast and when they catch you, the will tear and slash with their tusk, hurting a person severely.  
     Near my village, in the Colli Euganei hills, are swarming bands of these huge pigs, now so many that the authorities are hiring professional hunters to cull the numbers.  These boars are not babes in the woods,  they cause a lot of trouble to the grape fields so valuable to the production of some of the Veneto’s very superior wine.  Nearby crop farmers are also prompting the extinction of  the boars.   I have been hoping that my father in law who is a cacciatore (hunter) will be chosen and we would might get a few choice cuts, but he tells us  that the meat would not be allowed to taken home by the hunters.  My belief is that the authorities will be the ones taking the meat home.  Another story!

     Many Tuscan villages in October have a group of hunters get together on one Saturday and head out into the misty forest with their dogs before dawn.  Plans are to corral  a large area in the forest where they have spotted the boars foraging.  The dogs excitedly smell the ground until they find the scent.  Yelping and running like horses in the Kentucky Derby they race to find their quarry.  Shots are heard, and within minutes several boars are pulled out of the undergrowth. I should mention that every year some hunters are shot by accident in Italy.   Alcohol is the major cause.

     The boars are carried from the forest.  Bottles of grappa, a powerful Italian hooch, are passed around and the dearly departed are toasted along with praises to the bush whacker who blasted the poor critter to his last reward.

     Later in the village, glowing inwardly, the congenial group will warm themselves around a bon fire, and feeling no pain, they toast each other with wine as the boar is skinned and then cut up for the village feast.  No part will be wasted, even the head will end up on the wall of the local salumeria.  Meanwhile the dogs repose by the fire  while the hunter’s wives fill the table with regional specialties.   Thinly cut slices of different salamis and cheese, bruschetta piled with tomato and spices, and liver pate are set out. The  hunter/leader calls everyone to the table, a speech is made, and the feast begins.  The exuberant party of hunters will stuff themselves with their “real” wild boar.  
The one who made it to the market

1 comment:

Jan Fitzgerald said...

Makes you wonder now....