One year my father decided to raise pigs. Another year my mother thought we needed a pig in the house… as if three kids weren’t enough! (Okay, it was a guinea pig) In some cultures they’re considered one and the same – something we learned after taking our pig fascination on a family trip to Peru. We weren’t prepared to eat the family pet, but when in Rome…
Photo on left: My mother playing with her food before eating it. I do believe I was admonished for this as a child. Hmm.
Which one is the real guinea pig….
the one on the plate, or the one with the fork and knife?
Peruvians have hundreds of guinea pigs living with them in their one-room houses. They consume an estimated 65 million per year. Wedding gift starter-kits include a male and female guinea pig, which soon multiply exponentially. We found all this fascinating until one showed up on our plate during dinner, compliments of our tour director. It didn’t taste like chicken, more like rabbit. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, though it left a nasty aftertaste. I think I got the one whose diet consisted of rank gym socks and sewer water.
Today, churches in Lima and Cuzco still display Indian depictions of The Last Supper with Jesus and the 12 disciples eating roasted guinea pig! I am convinced I can locate a painting of The Last Supper in any country I visit featuring the motley crew noshing on the local favorite. (see carrot blog)
Fun Facts About Pigs:
Pigs are ranked #4 in animal intelligence behind chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants.
Winston Churchill once said, “Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.”
According to Wikipedia, there are approximately two billion pigs alive at any time, ranking them one of the most numerous “large mammals” on the planet.
You can be happy as a pig in mud, eat like a pig, and sweat like a pig (well not really, as they have no sweat glands). You can also squeal like a pig, but competing with a frightened pig could prove futile as their agitated oinks can measure up to 115 decibels – that’s two decibels higher than a jet engine at takeoff.
Today’s Featured Recipe:
One of my favorite culinary pleasures as a child was devouring “pigs in a blanket”. As I aged (and my palate grew a bit more sophisticated) I love recipes that twisted the classics into a healthier version, or at least humored me with their clever names. This brings us to today’s featured recipe – Figs In A Blanket – a mouth-watering center of cheese and figs swaddled with swine (prosciutto).
The prosciutto is made from the pig’s hind leg or thigh and the process of making it can take anywhere from nine months to two years. (I guess it depends on how long it takes to catch the pig)
So here’s to being….Snug as a fig in a pig.
- 12 figs, ripe but not too soft
- 8 oz. soft goat cheese, room temperature (or ricotta, blue cheese or mascarpone)
- 6 slices prosciutto, sliced in half length-wise
- 4 large rosemary sprigs, cut in thirds
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- Rosemary leaves or tarragon leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Cut the figs crosswise from the top, halfway down the fruit. Gently separate the quarters to create an opening. Scoop 2-3 teaspoons goat cheese into the opening, without overstuffing. Wrap each fig with prosciutto slice. Arrange figs on baking tray. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each fig with rosemary sprig. Bake in oven 25 minutes. Remove and discard baked rosemary sprigs.
- Combine vinegar, honey and pepper in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Cool.
- Arrange figs on serving platter or individual plates. Drizzle each fig with balsamic reduction or honey. Garnish with fresh rosemary or tarragon leaves.