by Tom Rea
Quarry Books 1985, Digital Edition 2013
Soft Cover 160 pages, $24.99
The title might make one wonder if explaining the dispatching and roasting of a whole pig is the purpose of this book. If that were so, it might be interesting, though of less value to readers who might aspire to do that, but whose needs are more often just to cook a pork chop or two for the evening meal.
As it happens, there are comprehensive instructions on how to procure and roast a whole pig. More relevant, however, is the background about how pigs are bred and raised, the explanation of the different cuts of pork and and suggestions for preparing each of these. Not a compendium of recipes, How to Roast a Pig nevertheless gives a reader who has some cooking experience plenty of confidence to strike out in many creative directions.
If a book about food brings good information, and is written in understandable language, that's a great start. If the text is well-displayed and easy to read, that's even better. Add photos and graphic elements that help the reader understand it all and you have a real winner. That's how this reviewer defines How to Roast a Pig. The author obviously knows what he's talking about, but doesn't need to spend much effort trying to impress his audience. Chef Rea's explanations are clear, concise and likely to help a reader with some experience in the kitchen think “Yes, I (sort-of) knew that,” or at the very least, “I didn't know that, but it certainly makes sense.” Little gems like the explanation of the Maillard Reaction on page 39, may enlighten home cooks who might understand this bit of science intuitively, but didn't get the culinary school explanation. It's also a great bit of esoterica to introduce to friends at a cocktail party, who may be appreciative, puzzled or jealous depending on how it's dropped into the conversation.
How to Roast a Pig is instructive and fun to read, as well. Definitely recommended.
Reviewer Dan Clarke counts the Jamon Iberico he experienced in Spain and a pork belly dish served in Oporto as two of the highlights of his culinary life. His grandmother's pork chops with gravy were pretty special, too.