Pork Four Ways With Veal on the Side

Feast at Bobolink Dairy, August 7, 2006

This past Monday, Kari and I attended a farm dinner at Bobolink Dairy in NJ – along with a few dozen other friends of the farm. The meal was hosted, of course, by Jonathan and Nina White, cheesemakers, farmers, bakers, and my former bosses. The meal was prepared by Tse Wei (who volunteered on the farm while I was interning there), his girlfriend Diana, and Sarah (a current intern).

I could really go on about how this meal was the epitome of eating locally, seasonally, honestly, grass-fed-ly, or any number of other things. Indeed, it was all of those and more. When it comes down to it, though, what most impressed me was how much I enjoyed eating everything.

The centerpiece of the meal was a young whey-fed pastured pig raised on the farm, recently slaughtered. This pig was turned into pork prepared in a variety of ways. There was a roasted pork shoulder and leg with the crispy skin still on (and with a foot still attached), a cooked ham, braised pork-belly, and a terrine made from the meat of the head (no brains) with a nice apricot-chile marmalade to accompany. There was also a basket of crispy fried sliced pig ear passed as an hors-d’oeuvre, but I won’t mention that. I love pork. I think it might well be my favorite animal.

Served along with the pork dishes were two veal dishes – roasted stuffed breast and a stack of grilled ribs. The veal, as one would expect, was also raised on the farm. This one had a name, Major – as in Major Beef, though he didn’t quite make it to the beef stage. Some people (Mum) have a problem with veal. It’s worth pointing out here that this calf probably died happy. He certainly lived happy. He was milk-fed in the sense that he was, well, actually fed milk – his mother’s – for a good portion of his short life. He was also fed grass. On pasture. He never so much as saw a crate. Like the pig, he was also delicious.

Accompanying the meat dishes were a pile of bread – baked on the farm in the wood-fired oven – variety of vegetables – mostly gleaned from the farmer’s markets. The roasted pumpkin, however, was described by Jonathan as being “pig-planted.” Apparently they’d been fed pumpkin as some point and had returned the favor by passing the seed (with fertilizer) back to the pasture. A neat little cycle of life.

Beyond the enjoyment of eating (and drinking – some enjoyable farm-made mead and some excellent imported farmhouse ales, courtesy of the owners of the bar DBA – also guests at the dinner) was the enjoyment of the farm itself and the people it attracts. I have to admit that the pre and post-dinner tours of the farm, getting back up close with the cows, made me miss it all. It also reminded me why I was there in the first place. What it was that brought me to the farm as a visitor a few years ago and an intern last summer. I do care about this food stuff. Not just the eating, but the grass and the honesty too.

I realize it is not practical, or even possible, for most people to eat this way – the way we ate on the farm that night – very often. There are, however, certainly many things that can be greatly improved in our current system. Things which have been discussed in great detail by people like Michael Pollan (in his excellent book The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and on countless blogs – and which I’ll discuss here as well, I’m sure.

I also, still, long for the lifestyle. Not lifestyle in the spa sense of the word. Lifestyle in the “I could really see this being my life” sense of the word.

Finally, I met good people from a wide range of backgrounds. These weren’t all crusty hippies and back-to-landers. Nor was it a barn full of elitist food snobs. While I guess both were represented in some way, it really was – and I’m sure of this – a barn full of people who care.

Comments 4

  1. Ricardo Rabago wrote:

    If interested Organically Speaking a Seattle base website has released a conversation with Michael Pollan podcast (audio conversation). Interesting tidbits on farmers markets, CSAs, and more!

    http://OrganicallySpeaking.org

    All the best,
    -Ricardo
    (iain edited this comment for brevity – and its borderline spamminess)

    Posted 11 Aug 2006 at 7:08 am
  2. Jonathan White wrote:

    Nice piece! I’ve just gotten the bacon into the smoker, and the proscuitto ought to be hanging in a couple of weeks. Other than that, the pig is sweet memory!

    Posted 17 Aug 2006 at 7:34 pm
  3. Mum wrote:

    I enjoyed reading this and am thrilled that you still love this lifestyle. And I do hope you love it enough to live it permanently at some stage in the not too distant future! You’re right – I do have a problem with the ‘factory’ raised veal but I guess I would also have a bit of a problem eating something with a name that I had helped to raise – however happily he may have died!!!

    Posted 17 Aug 2006 at 9:25 pm
  4. Jonathan White wrote:

    Oddly, I’m much more comfortable eating an animal that I watched being born and raised, rather than eating some stranger of unknown, and highly suspicious, provenance.

    Posted 18 Aug 2006 at 11:26 am