Garage Meats

Processed Meats: Essays on Food, Flesh, and Navigating Disaster has been out for two weeks and two days–a little less time that it takes to make pancetta. Pancetta is the Italian bacon–pork belly, cured, then, instead of cold-smoked like bacon, it’s dried in a garage. Or a garage-like entity. It’s supposed to be humid, the garage, but there is no humidity in this Arizona climate although it has snowed and, since snow tunnels under the garage door, when the snow melts, the garage approximates a humidor. If humidors were just lightly humid.

The Charcuterie Bible, by Michael Ruhlman does not expressly give permission to eat the pancetta raw. He says something like, “since you’ll be cooking it anyway, you don’t have to worry about…..” But I was always going to eat it raw as I do bacon and carpaccio and yellow tail. I feel the microorganisms in my gut get bored and need some work to do. I have a strong stomach. I don’t know. I should worry but I can’t because it’s delicious raw and it seems to not trouble my stomach.

One of the best things about publishing a book is you find out what you’re not supposed to do. I get questions about whether writing about my kids invades their privacy and why I eat meat and still claim to be an environmentalist and why I keep writing about climate change even though no one wants to talk about it. It’s not that raw is more delicious or better, necessarily. But it’s the thing that comes first. Prima facie. It presents itself without embellishment. I like fully cooked bacon but the meat, yes, processed, but straight from the garage of non-humidity, feels immediate and a little feral. Should writing be feral? Like pancetta, probably not all the time, but, for those whose stomachs don’t mind, sometimes seems right.

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