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What is your cluinary point of view?

Recently I've been drafted/volunteered to cook a whole pig for a bbq celebration. I have never cooked an animal this large and I'm finding it a bit intimidating. I am doing a ton of research and have come upon a way to cook it with which I feel comfortable. It's based on the La Caja China box I saw on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Due to money constraints I'm building it myself from concrete blocks and some scrap metal. The event is still a few weeks away and Im hoping to have it finished this weekend so I can try to cook a chicken in it. Sometimes I wonder why/how I got myself into this.

Recently I have been watching the Next Food Network Star, (a trashy guilty pleasure I admit) and this question or phrase gets bandied about often. What is your culinary point of view? Uh, I don't know. I just like to cook. After thinking about it for a few weeks I have actually found that I have one. I like it low and slow. I am a braise waiting to happen. I love real BBQ. I look forward to spending the day tending a Ragu. Most of my colleagues and friends want fast and simple and don't care where it came from. That's fine, I am in no way a fanatic. It's just what I enjoy. I like going to the market and being picky about which chicken, steak, chuck roast or boston butt I decide to spend my afternoon with. I like cruising the veggie aisles and squeezing this and that. I like reading the ingredients on a bottle of BBQ sauce before I invite it to go home with me.

If I were to blog or write it would be to encourage people to try and do at least one meal a month from scratch. What cooking from scratch has done to me is make me more curious about where my food comes from and what's in it. I like it local, natural and organic, but again not fanatical. I'm munching on some Fritos as I write this. This cooking from scratch thing is in large part what is behind the pig adventure. It's a natural progression or perhaps an escalating addiction. Which I'm not sure. I've seen some photos of whole cooked pigs, head on and eyes glazed over staring back at you. It's a bit arresting. My only contact with pigs is in a distant field or shrink wrapped in the meat dept. I hope having close contact with this animal will make me less squeamish, more appreciative and knowledgeable about what goes into or rather comes out of a whole pig.

If it all goes well I may decide to raise a pig of my own and perhaps be involved in the butchery. We shall see.


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  1. Hi JB:

    You are a brave soul indeed. I have done this and it is daunting. but fun too and delicious when done right. I'm sure you have already found them but just in case....http://www.thesmokering.com/index.jsp The Smoke Ring. The go to place for true BBQ afficianado's the world over. Good luck. Chef Wendy

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chef Wendy B

      I have been to that site a few years back when I bought my Char Griller Smoker. Great site, though I didn't find much on whole pig roasting. After doing some more reading I'm feeling pretty good about my plan. Of course getting it built and tested will be the true measure and that is just the cooking part.

      The logistics of getting the pig home (it's only a 50 pounder, but still) the day before, prepping it with injected marinade and rubbing it with oils and spice and then into a bath tub covered with ice for the night need to be planned out. Having a place outdoors where all the prep work can be done. Strong table with a clean cover. Marinades all prepped, rubs mixed etc. I am looking forward to this event very much, but it take a lot of planning.


    2. Pig is the trendy thing around here nose to tail suppers and use of exotic breeds.

      I hate to admit this but I have almost 50 years of cooking experience and my point of view-

      I am mostly a scratch cook. I will try to make anything myself. Once. I'm not above a frozen pizza though.
      Time with friends and family trumps food that takes all day, intensive, last minute preparation. I try to make ahead. My sister in law is the only person I cook with, so when we get together we cook part of the time . I do have DILs now so that might develop along those lines.
      I like to have as many options as possible. The more I learn about technique, the less I need a recipe. On the other hand, I will buy a cookbook or get a recioe from a specific person to hopefully get a specific result. You can teach an old dog new tricks!
      I have always tried to buy directly from the producer of my food when possible. The current interest in farmer's markets has made this much more expensive but also much more available and increased the options exponentially.
      I try to buy the best ingredients I can reasonably afford. Best is not always the most expensive.
      The most exquisitely prepared food is meaningless without hospitality and consideration of what your guests like.

      1. Woof, I do not envy the big task ahead of you! There was just an article about pig roasts in the NYT this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/din...

        As for my culinary point of view? The "About Opera Girl Cooks" section on my blog pretty much says it all, so I'll share that with you, if you please:

        "My philosophy about food has changed quite a bit over the years, and is ever-evolving. Above all, I am interested in making pretty, nutritious, and tasty food from the healthiest ingredients available. My palette of ingredients includes herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, natural sweeteners, as well as the occasional serving of dairy, meat, or fish."

        I'll try just about any cooking method except deep frying -- I once got a small burn on my face frying wontons and it spooked me for life!

        1. Built the box this weekend and tested it out with two chickens. Worked great and temps were as high as 390.


          1. My culinary point of view is "cook it until it tastes good, eat it, repeat."


            Perry P. Perkins
            “La Caja China Cooking”
            "La Caja China World"

            1 Reply
            1. re: pperkins

              I live on a small island with 2 pubs, 2 cafes, and 2 dining type restaurants. The food is all pretty interchangeable. Owners/managers seem to change every two years, and not much happens in between.

              So my culinary point of view is..."whats new and interesting and how can I cook it?"

              The up side of this small lifestyle is that I have amazing fresh seasonal food with in a 5 mile radius. Lamb, chicken, beef all organic. Great seafood although it is getting harder to find the fish, over fishing is a serious problem. And great seasonal fruit and veg.

              But trendy it is not. So I do crave the new and current ideas these boards give me.

              Thank you for all the great inspirational trends

            2. My new culinary POV was born out of necessity and has radically changed (for the better) these last two years. I went from eating a lot of take out and prepared and frozen foods, to cooking from scratch almost every meal, concentrating on eating the top 30 healthiest foods. Mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, with very little to no meat. Meat has been a recent addition, I can manage rack of lamb chops, and chicken thighs. I was treated with radiation for head and neck cancer and I actually ate no food at all for 9 months, had a peg tube for 18 months. I am lucky to be alive, and I am extremely lucky that I have been able to eat food again. So, every day has brought something new to try again, it's like being reborn. I still cannot use hot spices or salt and pepper, but that's ok. I'm a work in progress. My diet is now the best it has ever been. I do eat anything I want, but in moderate amounts, not getting carried away with sweets or 'junk food'. My culinary POV is probably fresh healthy ingredient foods, not necessarily low fat though. :)

              Good luck with doing that pig. Here in PA, we have a lot of pig roasts. They butcher a lot of pigs in my area. I have even seen them make scrapple and stuff. My ex brother in law did a pig roast for us twice, took over night, and he rented the smoker. Not an easy project. Good luck.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Matahari22

                How encouraging that your health issues resulted in a whole, new and refreshing attitude to cooking and eating. I had a similar culinary rebirth although I had always enjoyed cooking, even eating alone which can be a luxurious experience but most of all, it's rewarding to eat with others. Food is meant to be shared in every instance, hence 'soup kitchens', food banks and collective kitchens, potlucks, family and extended family meals. I always admired and endorsed the late Laurie Colwin's stance on the former. (Laurie wrote several novels, two excellent cookbooks and was a regular contributor to Gourmet Magazine.)

                Eat local foods when you can, support small, independent food businesses and organic, sustainable farms. As you eat seasonal foods, savour each fresh asparagus spear and sweet pea and carefully raised and butchered pig, if that's one of your culinary projects.

                1. re: rakip

                  Yes, food is so communal, and was such a part of my Sicilian background. That was the worst part of the side effects, I missed eating with family and friends, I can do it a little more often these days, but not as much as I'd like. Since it takes me an hour and a half or more to eat my food, most people get a little antsy. When I couldn't eat at all it tore me appart. It's amazing what we can take for granted. :)

                  1. re: Matahari22

                    I empathize with anyone who has had a heath problem that interfers with food. As a lot of older NA adults my husband is now type 2 diabetic. It's now a difficult thing to just spontaneously eat with freinds.

                    But health is more important than indulgence. And freinds are not family. You have to do the things you do for the ones most important to you.

                    Dine by candle light slowly with the ones that love you.

                    1. re: Luna2372

                      I do have a couple of special people in my life, my two friends I have been through thick and thin with, that take the time to sit and eat with me when we get together. She always does have candles, too. :) My family, well on the occasions I eat with them, they are done in ten mintues, and then everyone runs away.

                      1. re: Matahari22

                        Then food with freinds, and snack with family. I wish you strenght with your health. And freinds for you life.


                        1. re: Luna2372

                          Thank you. :) wishing you many blessings.

              2. Make and eat delicious food. That's my culinary POV. Suck it, Food Network!

                1 Reply
                1. re: joonjoon

                  I wish there were just a like button on here. (Yes, a bit of a facebook addict, I admit.) I'd hit it for this post. haha. Especially the finishing sentiment. :) (hi5 joonjoon)