I asked this question about three years ago, when friends of ours near Boone mentioned it as an annual January event. It’s what Yankees like me would call a whole-hog roast, ie, kill a pig, cook it up, invite a ton of people to join you in a frenzy of food and drink.
Well, we were never invited to that January event, but this weekend Miss Chef and I enjoyed our second pig picking of the year. This one was hosted by Lee and Domisty Menius of Wild Turkey Farms, about an hour away from us on the far east side of Charlotte. Unlike the last one we attended, in Holy City, South Carolina, many of our friends were invited, so this was a true community event for us.
We showed up about an hour late, which is kind of right on time for these kinds of gatherings. The hosts have done this a time or two before.
We trundled over to the long line of tables set up to hold everyone’s side offerings. Casseroles, greens, salads, beans of various colors and of course an overabundance of desserts, including pumpkin pie and s’mores cake. Decadent.
Almost immediately after room was cleared for Miss Chef’s slaw and my corn casserole, the line at the smoker was officially opened.
I didn’t learn until the next day that there was a lamb in there, too. You can see how I might have missed it, by the time I came through.
We got to select whatever chunks of meat we pleased, then have it sauced before moving on to the sides. Miss Chef and I found seats under an open shelter emptied of equipment for our dining pleasure.
We ended up sitting next to Carl and Leah Wagner, who have raised our Thanksgiving turkey for the past four years or so. We chatted about turkeys, their youngest daughter’s first year in college and the band of coyotes that’s been coming closer and closer to their property this year.
After filling up on pig, broccoli casserole and loaded mashed potatoes, I felt like taking a turn around the property before stopping by the dessert spread. On the other end of our dining field, a flock of chickens was enjoying the beautiful fall afternoon, getting in the last few bites before sunset.
Miss Chef joined me as I headed in the opposite direction, where we’d seen a few pigs when we parked in the field on the other side of the Bobcat. The pigs were out of sight behind a slight rise, but we did find the farm’s namesakes (sort of).
They’re not exactly wild, though they are a little…odd.
Lest you think these poor birds are crammed into a filthy, dung-filled crate, notice the trail of feathers in the background? This entire enclosure is moved, probably at least once a day, so they have access to fresh grass and bugs.
I wonder what the turning radius is on that vehicle?
Meanwhile, the pigs must have thought it was dinnertime, so they came wandering up the hill to say…well, this.
Yeah, these free-ranging Berkshires stand surprisingly tall and move more easily than their overbred, overfed pink counterparts. I think the one on the left was a male propositioning a female on the right. My nervousness seems to amuse him.
We had nothing more to say to the pigs, so Miss Chef and I wandered back to the party, past a group of skittish lambs…who probably have good reason to be skittish. They look about the right size for slaughter. Sorry, guys, but at least you have room to run.
As darkness fell, the grain towers were adorned with lights, and a steady stream of people made the short trek to their cars, fetching sweaters and blankets.
And then, just as the chill threatened to turn to cold, the bonfire was lit.
It’s awfully hard to get good bonfire photos with a cell phone…but a little post-production assistance helps a bit.
The distance of these revelers from the fire itself should give you some idea of the amount of heat being put out. If not, this shot of the tractor and barn up the hill is a good representation. As they say on Instagram, #noflash, #nofilter.
We hung around until the fire burned down to coals, the s’mores fixin’s came out, and most of the party had drifted away. Eventually we too thanked our hosts with great sincerity and called it a night. Even the hour drive home in the dark couldn’t erase my sense of grateful well-being brought on by a blanketful of stars and the smoky comfort of a warm fire on a cool night.
Yup, it was another one of those moments when I think to myself, “I must be doing something right.”