The merits of the pig are so widely recognized; its utility in cooking is so profoundly felt that its panegyric is superfluous here. It is the King of the base animal kingdom and the one whose empire is the most universal and whose attributes are the least contested. Without it, no bacon and as a consequence no cuisine; without it no hams, sausages, andouilles, blood sausages, and as a consequence, no charcutiers; it is very well for the doctors to say that its flesh is indigestible, heavy and laxative; they would be very angry if one listened to them because the pig is, in the arena of indigestions, one of the most beautiful jewels in their crown.* The Jews, on the other hand, can very well look at the pig with horror, although many of today’s Christians are truly Jews, all the while eating no fewer boudins and andouilles. Finally, although cured-pork products would be much better in Lyon and Troyes than in Paris, a fact owing to the body of the animal more than to the talent of the artist, our charcutiers have come to the point of triumphing over all obstacles and of varying their compositions in such a way as to place them in the highest rank in the art of making the pig take on the most varied and exquisite forms.
Nature has arranged things so well that everything in the pig is good and none of it is to be rejected. The arts compete with cooking for the honor of taking part of the remains and if M. Corps and M. Duthé (two of the top charcutiers in Paris) owe their fortune to its flesh, the hair on its back became, as everyone knows, the leading instrument of Raphael’s glory.**
When one deals with this estimable beast one therefore knows neither how to open the subject, nor from which end to take it. If we begin by the most noble, we see that, without much work, one makes from its head a boar’s head and this by procedures that are completely contrary to the art of civilization. Its chops, either grilled simply or else in a ragoût offer up plenty of ways to our sensuality; its thighs and shoulders make, under the name of hams, the reputations and fortunes of Mayence and Bayonne and we will return to this in the month of April. Its ears, tongue and feet simultaneously stimulate the cook and the charcutier and one makes from them the menus-droits, which many people prefer to the Rights of Man.*** Its fressure, its fat, its caul, and its intestines are the first foundations for the carrying case for all types of andouilles, sausages and boudins. Its rank even has, over that of all other animals, the advantage of transforming for the benefit of our appetite. Its meat, ground finely such as for the base of a pâté, aside from the diverse metamorphoses that it gets submitted to in shops, becomes, in our kitchens, the basis for more than one sophisticated stuffing and adapts itself marvelously to the cavities of a turkey on the spit. Its shoulder cured with salt; its loin, roasted; its spine, in chops; its head, de-boned in a headcheese; finally its fat converted into lard offer themselves up each day to our satisfied regards without unnecessarily exciting our attention. What say I? – Ingratitude toward its consideration has been pushed to the point of making a gross injury to the name of the animal that is most useful to man when it is no more. Its memory is insulted even as its flesh is devoured and it is repaid only by ironic contempt — such are the ineffable pleasures that it procures for us!
If these lines could make these iniquitous detractors turn back on themselves we could only applaud ourselves for it; but, whatever their result may be, we congratulate ourselves at least for having tried to reestablish by our sincere praises the reputation, so unjustly blackened, of the pig. We never encounter one without greeting it with a sentiment of profound gratitude.
Here would be the place, undoubtedly, to speak of the heir presumptive of its rank and destiny and to position after the praise for the venerable pig that for the gentle, milk-fed suckling pig; but the order of the seasons opposes its being here and we will wait for the return of summer to take it up.
*2nd edition adds the phrase, “let the doctors scold,” before the phrase “they would be very angry.”
**The 2nd edition adds the phrase, “and not at all useless to Rameau.” (Jean-Philippe Rameau, 1683—1764, French baroque composer).
***In French this is a pun on the “Droits de l’homme” (Rights of Man). This is a good example of Grimod’s clever use of gastronomic writing to serve as a not very well masked foil for expressing his reactionary views.
Translation (c) Carolin C. Young, 2013.