Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Swine Time.

Special thanks to my cousins Tim and Denise Mascal for all the pictures that they provided for this blog, and for their photogenic children.

     My family, over time, has instituted a lot of activities that force us to spend time together, we call them traditions.  Included in the list are, Guys Night Christmas Shopping, Thanksgiving, The Yarger Memorial Golf Tournament, The Progressive Dinner, and The Family Corn Roast and Reunion. The list is extensive, but incomplete as I have left out my favorite, which is the subject of this blog and is, my sister's annual Pig Roast. 

The Beaver (Beefer) Barn

     As usual in this blog, I will not name my siblings to shield their identities (For reference see "They call my brother Aquaman"), so this sister will forever appear in this blog as Meter Maid. She lives just south of Ithaca NY on a small 1,000 acre lot. Meter Maid started her Pig Roast over 12 years ago.  I suspect if she could have envisioned how it would have grown over time, she would have put the thought out of her head of ever starting it (well, at least her husband would).  She had the idea of a Fall day celebration where we would give thanks, allow the participants a chance to leaf-peep, and have the fellowship of her friends and family.   It worked, except her friends and family commandeered the party, expanded it to a weekend, and invited ourselves to stay for it's entirety.  A few years in, our relatives from the Boston area started making the trek in and staying.  In full swing, the event looks more like one of Hoover's Shanty Towns than anything else, but that's what you get when you invite some people to a party, especially Yargers.  This is all tongue in cheek as my sister is the most gracious hostess you will ever find and no one loves this event more than her, but as long as I am embellishing, I'll finish this paragraph with an exaggerated comparison.  Were you ever a member of the Columbia Record and Tape Club in the 70's?  No shame to admit it, after all they were marketing geniuses and we were teenagers.  For a penny you would get a ton of 8 tracks, records and tapes and only be obligated buy 12 more in order to fulfill your subscription.  Little did you know that they couldn't get the latest releases until 6 months after the traditional retailers, so you ended up with the likes of Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett in your collection.  You didn't really like them but you had to buy something; you were obligated.  I am proud to say that I am the Leif Garrett in my sister Meter Maid's, Pig Roast collection. 

The back view at Meter Maid's house
      My function at the Pig Roast has always been the same, cook and set up crew.  I can't remember the year that I didn't come down the night before and help secure the needed party items.  At first it was tables and chairs from the church, borrowed pots and pans from friends, and the always risky borrowing the pig cooker from a local redneck.  This particular gentleman had an affinity for drinking booze at the local American Legion on Friday afternoons.  We would arrive frequently to find an inebriated guy with a loaded shotgun demanding to know why were on his property in the dark and taking his pig cooker.  My brother in law spoke redneck a lot better than I did, so I would always defer to him to help diffuse the situation, Oh and he would stand between me and the shotgun, which I liked also.  Over time my sister invested in the items for the party, and my brother Ace and I invested in our own pig cooker, thereby saving the trouble of bothering the local redneck for his. We likely saved a pair or two of skivvies in the deal as well.

Ace's cooker front view open
 The cooker my brother built is worthy of a paragraph in itself.  He found a 13' former Army missile carrier in a scrap yard in Lodi, and he envisioned a pig cooker.  He carved out the missile housing and built a firebox on the end.  Above that he mounted a 4 foot restaurant grill and then he put the whole thing on an axle and installed a winch system for the cover.  It cooks as good as it looks, and I am a proud contributor to it's upkeep and maintenance.  I can't tell you how many whole hogs we have cooked on this bad boy, but I do know we never cooked a bad one.

So a typical Pig Roast now starts around 2 pm on Friday and finishes at 2pm on Sunday.  Since we don't have to run around to get the needed items, Friday night we help to set up the decorations, tap the keg, build a bonfire, drink from the keg, and so on.  Late in the evening, we put the pig on the grill and commence the cooking.  We are low and slow cookers (no jokes about mental aptitude or height please), we take about 14 hours to cook a whole hog.  Wood fire only for us.  We roast the pig, skin on, and cook it until the fat melts into the meat and becomes pulled pork.  We used to have to check the fire every 15 minutes, but we bought some electronics and some fans to help control the temperature, so we can now get 2-3 hours between checking and stoking the fire.  This means only one us technically has to stay up all night...NOT IT!  My brother Ace generally takes the bullet and it seems like less and less I stay up for the entirety of the cooking.

The Mascal children with the guest of honor at the Pig Roast.

The cooking crew pulling the pig.
  So Saturday rolls around, it's normally about 35 degrees when the morning starts and the dew/ice is thick when we awake.  Breakfast is fast on Saturday and we start the final preparations for the food.  The menu consists of pulled pork, chili, ham soup, clam chowder,pasta, beans, salt potatoes, salads, rolls, and all kinds of interesting dishes that the locals bring.  One time after cooking a pig we consecutively cooked a bear and a deer on the pig cooker, true story.  We serve between noon and 1, 100-150 people show up, and then the festivities start.  There is pumpkin decorating for the kids, a hayride, a cake wheel (bet on 9 the wheel is heavier there, trust me), music, a pinata, and the piece de resistance, a "Pink Pig" auction.  This developed over time and involves folks either wrapping a real or gag gift and then donating them to the auction.  For the better part of an hour people bid and outbid each other, only to unwrap a collection that could come from any garage sale on any block.  I swear one time, I got my own 8 tracks back (I knew they were mine cuz they had Shaun Cassidy singing Da Doo Ron Ron in them).  I never mind losing, as my sister, true to her nature, donates the proceeds to local charities (This year she donated $1,000, not too shabby).  I did mention the Pig Roast was free, right?  There is laughter and camaraderie, and another bonfire and we talk well into the evening.  The event has gone on so long, I remember one drunken argument with a nephew of mine about where he should attend school, and now enough time has passed that I have adopted his side of the argument and he has mine. He made it through graduate school a few years ago.   Good times.

Another view in back and a few of the participants.
Sunday morning comes and we generally wake up to the smell of country sausage and bacon.  Meter Maid's friend Jim and his family insist on sending us out with our bellies full, so we eat pancakes, sausage, bacon, home fries and eggs until we burst.  We waddle around pretending to clean up but actually load our vehicles with pumpkins, apples, gourds and homemade jams that Meter Maid has left conveniently around for us.  I almost got a weedeater this year, but was caught loading it in my car.  I always come away with more than I bring, but I don't know if that is the same for everyone or just me.  That's  how I roll. 

I always leave with the same two thoughts....   Why don't I visit my sister more often (it's an hour and a half away from my home), and how soon until the next Pig Roast?  The best parties always leave you feeling this way.  I'll finish with this invitation... If you ever find yourself in the Ithaca area (Wilseyville NY) on Columbus day weekend, and you smell some pork cooking, follow your nose and come join us for my sister's Pig Roast.  Meter Maid surely won't mind and hell, who knows, you might end up with a full stomach, a few laughs, a beer or two, and a great deal on some Shaun Cassidy 8 tracks.


Anonymous said...

hahahahaha why Meter Maid?

Anonymous said...

The Mascal kids look just like the their DAD. Also I had the chance to go to one of these famous pig roasts and it was a blast. I'm hoping to get to another one.

timbob said...

i want to know who said they look like me. If you know the story of the twins 12 hours after they were born, you know there's doubt.....j/k If you don't know the story, hit me up on FB and I'll tell you, just won't post in openly as it's quite funny, but embarrassing. BTW - GREAT post, Bill. One of the best so far, possibly because I experienced it.

Anonymous said...

You and your amazing "anonymous" family are priceless.

Daphne Mays said...

Drooling... And ordering plane tickets now for Columbus Day weekend next year...

Anonymous said...

Ask your boyfriend, why Meter Maid?

Debby said...

Great laughs as usual! Always a pleasure to read your stories!

Stacey said...

Ok.... really, how do we get invited!!! Awesome Bill!