Neither my wife nor I watch a lot of television. However, one of her TV vices is the show “Top Chef.” The other night, she was tuning in to see which of her favorites will make the final cook-off or bake sale or knife fight or whatever, when I overheard an especially astute comment.
Apparently, this episode was set in Puerto Rico, and the chefs’ challenge was to create an island feast. They were required to use pork in their entrees, inspiring one of the judges to say, “It’s just not a party in Puerto Rico without a pig.”
Well, I could have told you that.
The appeal of pork to Hispanics, and to Puerto Ricans in particular, is well-established. It’s like the Irish with beer, and the Filipinos with rice, and the fundamentalist nutjobs with child brides. Some things are just ingrained.
For proof, let me tell you about one of the first times I brought my girlfriend (now my wife) home for Christmas. The feast was held in the house of my cousins who are half-Puerto Rican, where they lived with their hardcore Puerto Rican father. My wife, a borderline vegetarian, was amused, then perplexed, then disconcerted as it was proudly pointed out that we had three different kinds of pig to choose from (roasted pork, glazed ham, and some fried-porcine dish that intimidated me). Her request for a veggie option, or at least a different kind of meat, was met with baffled stares. How could she not want to devour pig? And we had three different types tonight! As I recall, she ate a lot of salad that evening. What can I say, I liked the ham.
Going back even further, when I was a kid, the term “pork chop” was a derogatory term for Puerto Ricans. This short-lived and ineffective taunt subsided as more colorful words emerged – and also as pissed-off Puerto Ricans kicked the shit out of anyone who called them that. I do not recommend bringing back the insult.
In any case, I compliment the producers of “Top Chef” for recognizing the cultural allure of cooked pig to Latinos.
Of course, I’m sure there are Hispanics out there who hate pork, and probably a Latina vegan or two. Nevertheless, I have to think that if Puerto Rican producers ever get the rights to the “Babe” franchise, (so far consisting of “Babe” and “Babe 2: Pig in the City”), they will develop a sequel where Babe gets roasted, served up with plantains, and chased down with mojitos – all under the title “Babe 3: Pig in My Stomach.”