This Labor Day weekend we roasted a pig and threw a party. We got the wild idea while swimming in my brother’s pool one July evening. My brother John had just grilled our two families a poolside dinner. We were still savoring the meat in our post-prandial dip and someone said, “We ought to have a pig roast!” Everybody’s heads were nodding, but for me the most important nodding head was on my brother’s shoulders. If John was game, we were good to go. John is a master griller who also has a smoker the size of a Prius that puffs out hickory or apple wood smoked ribs, brisket, tenderloin, chicken. Got to have him on the pig team. Especially since none of us had every done a whole on hog.
We got up at 4 AM on Saturday to stuff and truss our 102-pound pig and get it on the spit. It was still dark when John and I lugged that beautifully skewered pig out to the grill. The motor that powered the rotisserie groaned under the load. But turn it did. Barely.
When the sun came up, John and I were lighting more charcoal (in the end it took 160 pounds of the stuff) to keep the fire blazing. For the first three hours we worked like the fiends of Sheol to feed the fire, put out flare-ups, baste the pig and keep the thing from falling off the pole. But after about four or five hours, when the pig was turning a deep mahogany, we had time to relax a bit. To talk. Men like to gather around fires, have for millions of years. There’s something primal about a pig turning on a spit. You feel connected to the aboriginal. Six times a minute the sacrificial animal turns. You think about your ancestors in caves, the hunters who gathered from the land, who survived, who were inspired to paint. And the spit turns on.
Some leaves were slightly yellow, a few even red as the earth turned toward autumn. John was about to start a new job after six months of leave. In a few days the program year at church would power up and draw me into its breathless activity. After the quiet vacation weeks of August, I could feel the coming surge. John and I tended the fire and talked of change. It was hard, he said, to get his daughter settled in her own apartment 500 miles from home as she started her first job. They had dropped their youngest off at college. The nest empty. And the pig turned. It was my birthday. 55. And the spit turned, came round something like 3,000 times in the ten hours we stood watch.
Then our friends and neighbors, our families came for the great Labor Day Pig Roast, and John and I disappeared into the party of people who came carrying salads and white wine and had not stood at any fire that day. But we had, John and I. The smoke still hung in the air as the sun set earlier than expected. The world was turning into September, and we knew it, had felt it together.
pam anderson says
I took my turn at the grill too and loved how the mesmerizing rotation of that pig drew me in and took my mind off all that was weighing me down–at least for the day!
I also loved that you organized this party and made it potluck. If it hadn’t been for you I would have tried to do it all. I relearned the lesson that most of the time it’s better when everybody brings something. Thanks to you, I had a blast!
We’re reading the blog this morning here at Sugarwood. Loved the description of the work you two did together and the great shots of you laughing together. Happy Birtdhay again, bro.
Hey Little Brother! Loved reading about your pig roast/birthday party! When you we telling us sibs about it on your birthday conference call, I thought, “How wonderful that David and John live close enough to each other to have an experience like this!”. I would have loved to sip a cup of coffee with you around the spit!
Congratulations on your new blog! I’m going to sign off now and read the posts prior to this one. You’re one of my favorite writers and now I can read you more often!
Pattie Campbell says
Hello David. I am one of the women who spent a weekend at Ree Drummonds ranch with your lovely wife and daughter, several weeks ago. I have loved Pam’s books for years, and found your blog through the shout out they gave at Three Many Cooks. I enjoyed your post today. I was taken away for a few moments and almost felt like I was there watching that pig turn. Your nod to the impending change of seasons reminded me why I have always loved this particular time of year. It’s a nice transition period from the lazy, hazy days of summer to the cool, crisp, hectic days of autumn. Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say in the future! Oh, and it sounds like there was a birthday involved around this pig roast. Happy Birthday to you!Please give hugs to your wonderful wife Pam and delightful daughter, Maggy from me. We only spend a short time together, but I thoroughly enjoyed them both!
We all took our turns, Dad. But this project was your baby. You and John. We were all impressed by your level of commitment and MacGuyver-like skills that made this pig roast an incredible success.
Lisa Leydon says
Awesome David! Loved the share. Here in Hawaii our pigs go in the Imu (nothing to do with the animal) pit with large hot rocks that are usually gathered from sacred places throughout the islands, then covered with banana leaves (huge fronds) and then burried for a day before everyone gathers with potluck for the celebrations. Love this celebration but I think there is something enchanting about watching the spit turn….the seasons turn….lives turn.
Alice in LA says
Sounds like a beautiful day all around.
susie rorer whitby says
I have never been a pig roaster,mostly because I felt so sorry for the pig,who just hours before had been happily living up to it’s reputation,that is to say ‘pigging out’.In a way a pig roast is like life.One minute your are celebrating,and the next minute,well you don’t know what will happen.Prehaps that’s God’s way of telling us we must live today the best way we can;not for ourselves,but in some way no matter how small to do something for someone else who wears the face of God. Today is 9-11-’11,and I have been deeply touched by the beautiful”rememberances” of that sorrowful day 10 years ago. I was afraid that I would hear many people asking “where is God?”and not waiting for an answer.I was so touched by how many people went to church,even people who hadn’t been to church for years,seeking comfort in the strength of Faith.I know we saw the Devil that day,but how do you combat a devil that masqurades as God?I pray for those people who are so mislead,but I’m not sure it’s with my whole heart.Back to the pig.In truth he probably fulfilled his destiny by giving nurishment to so many and bring people together to share friendship and love.I’m sure the pig is in hog heaven and we can be grateful for every day that we have,even the ones where fire seems to destroy all we know and love.Because at the end of the day the One who loves us is there now and forever.
Nate Fal says
Love the stories! I noticed that you wore your piggy wiggly shirt, very fitting. It reminds me of something my father would do.