A BIT ABOUT PORK
                                   
The pig, or swine as encyclopedias call it, is believed to be the third animal
domesticated.  It is thought to have originated in Asia.  Possibly penned and bred
during the Indus Valley Civilization, the pig made its way to China, the Middle East and
reached Europe in about 1500 BC.  Its temperament, and to some extent its diet,
discouraged early man's attempts to tame the independent animal.  Unable to digest
grass, leaves and straw like goats, sheep and cattle, the animal was a problem for
herders and nomads to feed.  Although the pig thrived on nuts, roots and grain it was
not a convenient meat producing animal.  As man began settling in villages and on
farms, the pig came to be appreciated.  It fed on man's garbage and easily prepared
slops and grains.

The Chinese recognized the pig as a valuable food machine at least 5000 years ago
and must have bred types specifically to suit their needs. They certainly devoted great
amounts of time developing ways to prepare and cook the animal for some truly
delicious pork dishes.

Western archeologists who excavated a village in Sensi province, that dated back to
about 3,000 BC, found evidence in every house that pigs were raised for food.  It was a
small pig that lived indoors with the family, grew to maturity in one year, and could
produce two litters of one dozen each year.  This must have been the pig used in the
famous Chinese suckling pig recipe in the 'Li Chi" compiled during the Han Dynasty
(202 BC-AD 200). Not exactly simple, the recipe required stuffing the pig with dates,
roasting it encased in clay, removing the clay, deep frying the pig, then cutting the
meat into slices, and placing the slices on a bed of herbs and steaming for three days.  
Considered one of the 'Eight Delicacies' it is doubtful that many could afford to gorge
on it.

The rest of the world was slow to accept the pig.  The Indo-nomads who grazed their
animals on the plains of Eastern Europe and Western Asia must have found, as others,
that a few pigs were more bother than a hundred or so sheep.  Pigs' value as meat had
long been accepted. and as early as 1800 BC it was known that eating pork could be
harmful under certain conditions.  The hot climate of the Middle East, where early
advanced civilizations developed, accelerated pork problems.  It is not surprising that
the Jewish and Muslim religions, which originated in the area, prohibited the eating of
pork.

The little porker has done well.  In spite of  17.8% of the world's population eating no
pork at all because of religious doctrine, there are estimated to be over 835 million
porkers routing about around the world. China has the largest number with 38.5% of
the total, the Soviet Union 9.0% and the United States 6.5% and the remainder
scattered throughout the world.

The Chinese never really valued the cow or its milk  It was too big and would have
demanded too much from their land.  Land was too valuable for producing food for the
people.  Land could not be spared to graze cattle or grow grain to fatten cattle or feed
them as domestic animals to work in the fields.  The small pig was more suitable as it
did not deprive the family of food, could be fed on food scraps, and could live indoors
with the family.

Pig meat, particularly suckling pig, was so popular with the Romans that laws were
enacted forbidding the slaughter of virgin sows in an attempt to protect them from
extinction.  Wild boar was often served at banquets. One impressive banquet was
recorded by an attendee who tells of a tremendous boar served on a platter
surrounded by baked pastry molded to look like suckling pigs, with baskets of dates
hung on the boar's tusks.  When the guests had fully appreciated the magnificent
presentation a servant sliced into the stomach and out flew many thrushes.  The
thrushes were caught and one presented to each guest.  The modern world has
captured the drama of the situation but has substituted large cakes with pretty girls
inside.

Preservation of meat was important to the development of northern Europe.  The
animals migrated south to avoid harsh winters.  Hunting for scarce game and even
fishing must have been difficult and success uncertain. It was not until 1809 that
canning was developed by a Frenchman.  Prior to that drying, salting and smoking were
the basic methods for preservation. Pre-historic man dried meat, the ancient Egyptians
dried and salted meat, fish and fowl, even exporting it to cities along the
Mediterranean.

By the fourteenth century pigs were reasonably common in Europe. Records kept in
Florence, Italy, a city with a population of 90,000 inhabitants, indicate that 30,000 pigs
were eaten a year.  Mutton and sheep were more popular with some 60,000 devoured
annually.  Possibly their woolly hides useful for making warm clothes, accounted for
them being twice as popular as the pigs.

When settlers arrived in America there were no native pigs.  There was a small pig-like
animal called the peccary that inhabited South America and Mexico, now found in some
of our border states.  Hernando De Sota brought thirteen pigs ashore when he landed
in what is now Tampa, Florida, in 1542. Some of these original thirteen or their
offspring may have established themselves in the wild Florida jungles and were
domesticated at a later date.  However, what we know as the pig was imported from
Europe by the early settlers.  It became an important part of the meat supply of the
United States.