A Spanish zooarchaeologist examines all things porcine in this enjoyable truffle of a book.
“I didn’t know you liked pigs, Pía,” a friend said to Spry-Marqués upon learning that she was writing a book about them. “Neither did I, I guess, but I felt I wanted to find out more about the animals that had featured so prominently on my plate as a child, but with which I had little contact.” Her investigation opens with the many thousands of years of domestication and experimentation that have gone into the transformation from wild boar to domestic pig, and they move on to the long history of how humans have made use of just about every part of the animal. Pigs have been monoculturized, so to speak, but they began with a “multi-genus cast,” with some living relatives still. These include the Philippine warty pig, “which has quite funky hair and would have been the envy of all those hair-obsessed people in the 1980s,” writes the author with characteristic breeziness. As the narrative progresses, it becomes ever more of a grab bag, very nearly an almanac of all things piggy: pigs don’t really sweat and certainly don’t “sweat like a pig,” as the saying has it, and they don’t really suffer from skin cancer, though they’re put to work in medical experiments on that and other human maladies. Furthermore, they don’t need to be burned to a crisp in order to remove pathogens from their flesh; Spry-Marqués looks at the varying regimes of antibiotics and food supplements that pigs are fed around the world, an exposition that may lead sensitive eaters to save their pork binges for trips to the European Union. There are some appealing recipes for home cooks, too, including concoctions like beer-marinated pork chops and Croatian wild boar and red wine stew.
Just about all you ever wanted to know about the Suidae—including reasons for not eating them, as the author concludes. For cooks and animal lovers alike.