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Think Tank

The Secret to Whole Hog Barbecue

Do you want to impress your guests this summer? Attempt to channel your ancient ancestors by slow-cooking a whole hog. No sauces. Just a slow-cooked animal over an open wood fire.

Food thought leader Michael Pollan, who earned a devoted following with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, stopped by Big Think’s studio to share his stories of getting to know the food we hold most sacred. Pollan’s books, like his latest Cooked, take a deeper look at what we eat and where our food comes from. Just in time for summer, Pollan explores the ancient science and art of barbecue in a three-part series.

In this interview clip, Pollan explains how he discovered the purest whole hog barbecue in what is called by its North Carolinian proprietor as “The Vestibule of Hell.”

To hear him tell it, the story sounds like a stop on a food odyssey: “I walk in and we open the door and we're just assaulted by this smoke, this delicious smelling smoke. And inside is a giant fireplace with logs like this. I mean it looks like a giant's fireplace. And the grate is made out of truck axles, that's how big it is. And they're burning down wood to coals and then they're shoveling the coals in these long cinderblock containers that have a grate on top and on top of the grate sit these whole pigs."

Want to know the secret to producing—and yes, it’s quite a production—whole hog barbecue? Watch this clip from Big Think’s interview with Pollan:

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