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HomeEducation / CultureAh want ah piece ah pork …

Ah want ah piece ah pork …

By Johnny Coomansingh

Irwin Reyes, the calypsonian known as The Mighty Scrunter is a storyteller that keeps you laughing with every word he says; guaranteed! I wanted a cold drink, something like a really cold Malta Carib, so I stopped at De Forest his pub located on the Toco Road in Paharry Village just a few paces from the junction of El Reposo Road, in Sangre Grande.

As I made myself comfortable at one of the tables with a beastly cold Malta Carib, up came Scrunter and sat down at the said table. As usual, he called me “Compie,” and the ol’ talk started about his annual pre-Christmas “Pork Fete.” He said that people from all over Trinidad and Tobago and even from abroad attend this fete. The main thing I gathered from the story is that when everyone is totally inebriated, he lets loose two well-greased pigs as his gifts to the attendees. Whomsoever catches any one of the pigs is the winner of the pig! Catching the Christmas pig is for keeps!

The fun begins when the pigs try to escape the clutches of the people that chase after them; fun, laughter, and good “bacchanal” ensue. To grab a greasy pig is not easy. It’s almost similar to a person climbing a greasy pole. I remember quite well my pig-raising activities when I studied agriculture at the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (ECIAF). Pigs are some of the smartest animals that nature has created. Never leave the pig pen gate open, not even a little crack! They are smart enough to quietly open the gate and bolt! I was engaged in raising pigs for about one full year during my second-year sojourn at ECIAF.

It’s funny, but if you touch a pig, for example during castration, you could wash your hands for a whole week with Dettol soap and your hand would still carry the scent of pig. A barrow, a pig about 200-280 pounds, is as strong as a giant. Grabbing him by the ears to get him back into the pen is pure tedium. No pig wants to be penned up. So much for that pig pen aspect.

At ECIAF, the question that shows up most of the time during final exams for “Pig Husbandry” is: “The only thing that is lost in the pig is the squeal. Discuss.” In short, everything is valuable in a pig…even the guts!

Turning once more to Scrunter and his parang-soca song, “Ah piece ah pork” released in 1990, Scrunter instigated that what is needed for Christmas was “ah piece ah pork.”

Listen to the lyrics: “Ah want ah piece ah pork! Ah want ah piece ah pork! Ah want ah piece ah pork for mih Christmas! Ah doh want no manicou (opossum). Yuh could keep yuh callaloo…ah want a piece ah pork for mih Christmas.” That year in question pork was in short supply…the slaughter of pigs was incessant! As far as I know, everybody wanted “ah piece ah pork.”

According to Scrunter, all cuts of pork were sold out! The Christmas pork that everybody wanted was as scarce as good gold. It clearly shows the subtle effect that the lyrics in a song could have on a population.

Sometimes the pig raised and saved for consumption at Christmas could escape and hide. A pig like that could give serious trouble. Roast pork leg, stewed pork, ham, and pig foot souse are always up for grabs at Christmastime.

Anyway, what is Christmas without ham? When I was a child a very long time ago, a down payment on a ham was possible, especially at the local groceries. Picnic Hams in whitish cotton bags were advertised on a strong taut wire line that was strung across the grocery. If you purchased a ham, your name would be written on the ham, whether it was a big ham or a small ham. Everyone knew your “pocket” back then. By Christmas Eve, customers would pick up their hams.

Then the five-gallon “pitch oil pan” with the ham inside would be set to boil on three stones in the yard on Christmas Eve day. That was real country living back then; such great yesterdays! Nowadays, people can buy a ham “online.”

However, with the change in our “religious” belief, our household shifted to the creation of a “Salted Beef” ham recipe. The large chunk of salt beef wrapped in a piece of cotton cloth would be boiled with clove and other spices for a few hours. Slicing that salt beef ham on Christmas morning was a little difficult. Nonetheless, it tasted just as good with chow-chow or the famous Larjochow pepper sauce and homemade bread.

Today, we have a variety of “hams” made from pork, turkey, chicken, lamb and beef and even a vegetarian fare known as Wham. So there’s enough from which to choose.

Regardless of the nature of the ham, Marcia Miranda’s clarion call goes out, “Bring out the ham!” With the way things are going in the production of meat science, what kind of ham would we have tomorrow? Lab-ham? Nevertheless, Scrunters’ “Ah want ah piece ah pork” yearly remains as an iconic parang-soca song, maybe to put a variety of “squeals” wafting on the Christmas air.




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