Strange bedfellows, these two menu items, but there’s a story to be told about my first (and only) roast suckling pig and the carbonara we enjoyed the night before.
Back when I was Media Director of a high-tech ad agency in Boston, my husband and I were meeting with one of the partners, a very accomplished and self-taught home chef, to plan our company summer outing at her home in Marion, MA. When I mentioned the possibility of a luau in lieu of the usual clambake, thoughts turned to a large pig buried in a pit roasting over hot coals for hours. A massive undertaking. We decided instead to continue with the clambake theme, but to also try our hand at doing a smaller roast suckling pig as a dinner for certain clients who had become good friends.
We assigned tasks. My husband was to procure the pig from a butcher in West Roxbury, and was under orders from me to make sure it was fully dressed and oven-ready, with the eyes removed so they would not burst (according to Julia). I was to research appropriate sides and a soup – Indonesian yellow rice, and a crabmeat and asparagus soup – and Patricia, my boss, would provide the venue, beverages (Planter’s Punch, of course), and a tropical fruit-based dessert.
The night before the big day, we arrived at her home, where she had the piglet in question stored in her basement refrigerator. “I feel like a murderess” she said. We planned our timetable for the next day’s prep, and then she miraculously threw together a dish of eggs, cream, grated cheese, bacon and pasta that we’d never had before, and began our love affair with Pasta Carbonara – a dish I turn to often when breakfast for dinner needs a different spin to it.
Next morning, Saturday, we brought the baby beast up to her kitchen for unwrapping and marinating, and there it was staring at us with those big baby blue eyes. We glared at my husband as if this were his fault, and demanded that he man up and do the necessary thing with a grapefruit knife, while we fled to the farthest reaches of her home and covered our ears to muffle the sounds of his struggles in the kitchen.
The surgery thus performed, we brushed the pig with a Polynesian marinade and then cut and taped together two aluminum pans to contain the piglet, which measured 23″ from nose to tail. Alas, the oven was 22″ so we resorted to roasting on the hypoteneuse. Draped in cheesecloth to keep the skin moist during basting, and with foil protecting nose, ears and tail, our pig looked like a new form of alien life just arrived from Planet X.
Cutting to the chase – after purchasing every lime available in Marion for our pitchers of Planter’s Punch, getting somewhat tipsy and giddy all around, and reading with our guests from Charles Lamb’s dissertation on Suckling Pig, we enjoyed our feast – relying largely on the soup, sides, and dessert to fill our bellies, because there’s precious little meat on an 11-lb suckling pig to satisfy 8 adult appetites. And if anyone cares to know, it tasted like veal.
I swore never again, but have loved Pasta Carbonara ever since,