Ode to Pork
Lately I've distracted myself with so many things: Humphrey Bogart movies, holiday pool parties, chicken pox, unpaid bills, celebrity deaths, vodka. I've been so distracted there hasn't been a blog entry, a Facebook update, nary a tweet. (Shameless plug: follow me on Twitter. I'm mommywithapenis.) Finally yesterday, I posted the following Facebook status update "Hutchins wonders what could be all that bad about frying up pork chops." I had no idea I stumbled upon a hotbed of controversy.
The responses were varied. Someone wished me Happy Monday. Someone else gave me a gentle vegan/vegetarian warning: Don't get me started. A third person wrote out a yummy sounding recipe: Use a couple of spoons of olive oil and cook it on low-med heat for about 12 min each side. Make sure you add your spices first: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika, crushed chili peppers. lemon optional. Make some white rice, red kidney beans and you will turn Puerto Rican on us.
And then there was this: Pork is full of nasty parasites. The tapeworms found in pork are some of the most deadly. These tapeworms can travel to the brain and spread disease that could even kill a person. Some people have developed brain seizures and other health problems after eating pork.
She then attached a video link that has since been removed. I imagine it looked something like this... (The following is not for those of you with weak constitutions.)
Growing up, I dreaded pork night. My mother would lightly season the chops. And when I say lightly season, I mean no seasoning whatsoever. And then she'd put them into the oven until they resembled something you'd scrape off your boot after taking a stroll through a cow pasture. There was nothing nice about the tough piece of sinew I had to force down my gullet every other Thursday. And dry! You could give me a glass of the Mojave and it would be as refreshing.
It wasn't until I met Michael that I understood the juiciness, the detectability, the absolute nirvana that is a beautifully seasoned fried pork chop. It's easy for me to rag on my poor husband. Well, let's face it, he's an entertaining fellow with a shitload of quirks. But when it comes to pork or beef or chicken preparation, there are few who can top him. What can I say? Michael knows meat!
One of those who could cook pork better than my man was his Aunt Alvina, who Michael called Aunt Bean Bean. Aunt Bean Bean could cook a smothered pork chop that would make you cry. First it was fried and then cooked in gravy. (Anyone need a tissue?) And whenever Michael asked Bean Bean for the recipe, she'd respond with, "a handful of this, a smidge of that." Hers was a recipe by feel rather than exact measurements.
Let me leave my pork diatribe for a moment. One Thanksgiving, Michael's family came to California from Alton, Illinois and Bean Bean proceeded to cook the entire meal. She even brought an extra suitcase which contained her own utensils and seasonings, worried of course that we had none of our own. I remember her at our stove with her own set of cooking spoons, stirring the mashed potatoes, ladling the gravy. She had her own way and didn't want anyone else in her (our) kitchen. It was one of the tastiest Thanksgiving dinners I've ever had.
When Bean Bean passed away, there was the typical family disputes that I've gotten used to with Michael's family. (One of Bean Bean's kids found out she had a different daddy than her siblings, at least that's the rumor.) I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but amidst the family squabbles I wanted that set of cooking spoons. I can't imagine they were worth anything, but they meant something to me because from the beginning, Aunt Bean Bean accepted me into her home and welcomed me into the family. And those spoons, that she packed in her suitcase, represented her love and acceptance. In between shouting matches we asked the family for Bean Bean's spoons, and a silence occurred. Her children loved that we wanted their mother's utensils. Not only did they pack up the spoons, but a whole bunch of other kitchen items. I'm not sure where most of that stuff is, but the spoons live proudly in our kitchen. The smothered pork chop recipe unfortunately is buried with her.
So, my trajectory has been hating the pork chop, to loving the pork chop, to cooking a mean pork chop my own damn self. Well, guess what we had for dinner last night? That's right, a bit of the pig. I washed and dried my chops, dipped them in beaten egg and then well seasoned flour, and placed them pretty as you please into heated canola oil. I know I've done good when my husband says, "You put your foot in those pork chops."
As I was cooking the chops I updated my running feed on Facebook which sent me to the above YouTube video. For those of you who were too skeeved out to watch it, there is a claim if Coca Cola is poured onto a pork chop, within two minutes worms will appear. They will be so disgusted with corrosive nature of the cola that they will have to crawl out of their cozy place in the meat. This is supposed to prove that all pork no matter the cut or expiration date has worms. And I had chops sizzling in canola.
As I served my kids dinner, I imagined child services ringing my doorbell because I didn't change the menu. And if that poor mother in North Dakota can be brought up on charges for drinking while breast feeding, then it seems to me that I easily could be hauled away for feeding my babies maggot infested pork.
After the dishes were cleared away, I decided to do a little research. I found this interesting... The Centers for Disease Control have noted incidents of trichinosis are now less common than it used to be. From 1997-2001 an average of twelve cases of pork related infections per year were reported. Only twelve! Really? The way I've heard people fretting, I imagined one in ten got trichinosis. See what happens when government regulations are in place, keeping us from feeding our hogs raw meat, garbage and sewage.
And there's a whole slew of other articles and YouTube videos about this very Coca Cola pork chop debacle. Evidently, it's been an urban legend for years. You can find undeniable proof that it's true and irrefutable evidence that it's a hoax. Which is it?
Instead of answering, I leave you with a Coca Cola pork chop recipe and an ode. I've not tried this recipe yet, however I think I may have to temp brain seizures in order to partake of its white trashy goodness.
Rewritten from the Bard...
Tis but my fork that is thy enemy;
What art thyself, if not a piece of pork?
What is pork? Is it not hock, nor rib,
Nor carnitas, nor moo shu, nor any other part
Belonging to a pig. But none compare to the chop!
The mouth watering bone-in pork chop
By any other name would taste as sweet.