Part 1 here
Clean and white and looking much more like something belonging in a butcher shop, the pig hangs upside down, feet splayed out on the bar above. With a not-so-big knife, chosen for its blunt tip to avoid nicking the organs inside, he starts working a slit down the center of the pig. Thick fat parts around the knife; fat that will become bacon and piecrusts. The two sides peel apart around his hands and he tells us all to come sniff the air coming out of the pig. Beef has a very specific smell—a hamburger and a steak have something in common scent-wise. But a singular pork-scent is harder to identify, a loin and a strip of bacon don’t smell a lot alike—I can’t think of what “pork” smells like. This is what it smells like, says Brandon.
First whiff is nothing really, maybe a little bit of unpleasantness. Second go-round is this weird, pungent, bodily smell that does somehow bring the taste of a still-pink pork chop into my mouth. After we all get our sniff, Brendan furthers his slice, unearthing the secret insides of the animal. I was surprised by how clean and pale it was. Up until this part it’d been a bloody process, with the knife to the neck and continual dripping of red blood from the nose and mouth as the pig hung. Now, headless with gaping belly, all clean and dry inside. The cut about halfway finished, Brandon piles the organs that once lived in the hind end of the pig out, all of them slipperily falling over one another into his hands. The ballooned bladder, the bloated rope of the intestines, the dark brown-crimson liver. They flop into a bus tub and Brandon cuts a little further, getting closer to the headless neck. The lungs come out, the esophagus, the caul fat and spleen, the heart.
Having thought of the mysterious organs as a system for years, I was surprised to see them all come out individually. The heart is related to the whole body, but it easily slips away from all the rest.
All of this is food, and emerges from the pig with a recipe from Brandon. Spleen: to be butterflied and filled with sautéed onions, steamed over rillettes. Lungs, chopped and sautéed with wine. “The heart has the perfect sized cavities for dates and pine nuts,” Brandon says as he wiggles his fingers into the holes that once served arteries. The liver seared or made into paté. An abundance of guts, a feast of offal. He puts his hand on the end of the esophagus and fills the lungs up with air and they massively expand and I think of the living pig, its body full and taught.
The body is empty now and Brandon finishes the cut. The pig hangs like a book, one side splayed open. The saw comes out, and there seems to be a transition from slaughter to butchery. No fur, no head, no life-giving organs; no longer really an animal. Flattened, its legs pointing in opposite directions. Andrew pulls the feet apart and Brendan settles his saw into the very center of the spine. The halving is tricky business, trying to saw through the exact center of tiny featherbones that extend up from the spine. Slowly the sides come apart and two separate halves hang from the tree. Their hands bloody, sleeves dirty with organ phlegm and fat, Andrew and Brandon release the pork from the hooks and ease it down onto a wood pallet. I rub the finally exposed pork—familiar, pink meaty protein pork—with my index finger and think about washing my hands. I’m really cold and wet. And thrilled.