For our dinner, Tate had prepared a six-course pig tasting menu. The first two dishes to arrive were the chicharrones (crispy, weightless curlicues dusted with chile) and the mortadella (stuffed with pistachios)—animal processed into pure abstraction. Only on the third course, the crispy tail and feet, did anything resembling actual meat appear, but somehow a mental barrier remained between the contents of my plate and the memory of the animal from which they came. Then the shank arrived, the size of a small child’s head, flanked by beans and Brussels sprouts. It looked recognizably like a body part, and the skin … well, the thing about crispy cooked pig skin is that it can look like a third-degree burn. As I cut off a chunk of it, with its slippery underside of half-rendered, translucent fat, my ambivalence about eating Splotch manifested. I had a momentary gag reflex. But then it was over, almost as soon as it began, and I finished my shank and moved on to the final course, a medium-rare—as rare as I’ve eaten—pork chop.
My companions that evening occupied distinct, if similar, points on the food-politics spectrum. One had spent her childhood summers in a town where slaughtering a pig is a common predinner ritual, which made her blasé about eating animals. The other, a food professional and self-proclaimed fresser, was simply too in love with pig in all its forms to be bothered by its provenance. I’m well aware that there are those who have moral objections to the idea of killing animals in order to eat them, and I respect that view. I also know, as does even the most avowed carnivore, that any once-sentient creature’s life deserves more than a one-word summation. And yet, I can only report what I found to be true in my one and only experience in genuine farm-to-table eating. Forgive me for saying so, but Splotch was delicious.