Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"A Visit to the Republican Pig Pens," 1899

My colleague Eileen pointed me to the multimedia histories available at the Ohio State University Department of History. One of the political cartoons there with pigs in it was this one, "A Visit to the Republican Pig Pens," which comes from The Verdict, a pro-Democracy and anti-McKinley paper, on 24 July 1899. Hanna is, of course, Mark Hanna, the Ohio industrialist who managed McKinley's 1896 presidential campaign. I'll leave it up to the rest of you Gilded Age historians to make sense of the rest; after all, I'm really an early 19th century guy...

This will be the last post for about a week, as I'll be traveling to give a paper at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts meeting in Portland, Maine. I'm looking forward to some real fall weather, that's for sure...

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Ian Falconer's Olivia

The most popular pig in children's literature in this decade has to be Olivia, Ian Falconer's strong-willed heroine of eight books. My two favorites are Olivia Saves the Circus (2001) and Olivia Starts a Band (2006). According to a 2003 article by Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today, Falconer has no good answer for why he chose a pig: "I have no idea. There seems to be a lot of pigs and ducks in kids' books. Pigs are shaped like little kids. Their bodies are smaller than their heads. Pigs are supposed to be intelligent, smarter than dogs, but they're a bit awkward. Their trotters are like little kids' arms that don't work very well yet."

The U.S. Postal Service included Olivia in a 2006 stamp series of Favorite Children's Book Animals (above). Note that two pigs made the cut, Olivia, and Wilbur from E.B. White's Charlotte's Web.

You can find a conversation with Falconer about his creation here on the Simon & Schuster site.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Tennessee Hog Killing

The Southern Foodways Alliance has an "member contributions" section online. One great contribution to it comes from Evan Hatch, who photographed the annual hog slaughtering held at Ronald Lawson’s farm in Short Mountain community near Woodbury, Tennessee, in January 2003 (here). Hatch provides a great essay on this vanishing tradition, one that draws heavily on my main source for traditional hog butchering, Eliot Wigginton's The Foxfire Book (1972). Hatch's photo to the right depicts the men scraping the hair off the hog after its scalding.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

"Pigging Out and About" BBQ Tour

I was taking a look at the Oxford American site (their annual music issue is out now and is a must have) and found a link to The American Table Culinary Tours, a group that leads "field trips" to important sites for American cuisine. The one that caught my eye was the September 2007 Memphis barbeque tour "Pigging Out and About" (here), led by Lolis Eric Elie, author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbeque Country and editor of Cornbread Nation 2: The United States of Barbeque, and folks from the Southern Foodways Alliance. I imagine everyone had quite a good time. There are some excellent-looking tours of Detroit cuisine and Kentucky bourbon scheduled for 2008, by the way.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Colonial Ham

David Shields, an important and innovative literary scholar based at the University of South Carolina, has a great essay on the history of American ham called "The Search for the Cure" in the current issue of Common-Place (here), an online journal of early American history sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass.

Shield's essay traces the various means of curing hams in the colonial period, tracing the histories of "two schools of ham production: the dry-cure sect, who would increasingly view themselves as purists and traditionalists, and the wet curists, who regarded themselves as experimentalists in taste, economy, and scientific agriculture, yet whose pork brined in a barrel was the staple of the common household." It's a great read, especially for those of you interested in the history of American foodways.

Today's image comes from an on-line article by Patricia Mitchell on the history of the Smithfield ham. The image is of a circa-1930 Baltimore newspaper advertisement that features a peanut-shaped hog and Smithfield cured meats. Mitchell's essay can be found here at foodhistory.com.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Bacon Candy Bar!

Here's another product in the line of thought that says everything is better with bacon: Mo's Bacon Bar, a milk chocolate bar with chunks of Applewood smoked bacon in it. Lisa found this on Boing Boing (here), although the best description comes from the website of the manufacturer, Vosges, where the owner and chocolatier, Katrina Markoff, writes this about her invention:

Crisp, buttery, compulsively irresistible bacon and milk chocolate combination has long been a favorite of mine. I started playing with this combination at the tender age of six while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of fried bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. Just a bite of the bacon was too salty and yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate syrup. In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point, for on that plate something magical happened: the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it--chocolate.

You can get your own for $7.00. Let me know if any of you try it.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Arnold Lobel's Pigericks

Arnold Lobel's The Book of Pigericks (1983) contains 38 limericks about pigs, framed between two semi-autobiographical limericks about an old pig with a pen who looks surprisingly like a porcine version of Arnold Lobel himself (see the cover to the right). The limericks themselves are silly, perfect for the 4-8 year olds who are the target audience. For example:

There was a rich pig from Palm Springs
Who had passions for bracelets and rings.
He displayed his collection
Around his midsection
By means of strong wires and strings.

Yet another find in my attack on the CSULB Children's Collection.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Lewis Carroll's "The Pig-Tale"

California State University Long Beach has an outstanding children's literature collection, where I've been going through lots and lots of pig-related books. One pleasant surprise was the discovery of Leonard B. Lubin's 1975 adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "The Pig-Tale," which originally appeared in Sylvie and Bruno (full text here) in 1889. It concerns a pig who is grief-stricken because he cannot jump. A frog comes by and offers to teach the pig how to jump for a fee. The frog jumps easily onto an old water pump, and urges the pig to "bend your knees and take a hop." The result:

Uprose that Pig, and rushed, full whack,
Against the ruined Pump:
Rolled over like an empty sack,
And settled down upon his back,
While all his bones at once went 'Crack!'
It was a fatal jump.

The Frog winds up in a dismal mood, of course, because he would never get his fee.

Lubin's illustrations are quite charming, with the animals in formal Victorian-era costumes. The story of the pig is interspersed with verses about little birds, also nicely illustrated, if perhaps a bit too surreal and fantastic for some. I couldn't find any examples of Lubin's work on "The Pig-Tale," so y'all get an image of Lewis Carroll instead. Sorry.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Helen Hill's "Your New Pig Is Down The Road" (1999)

One of my regrets is that I missed my chance to see the films of Helen Hill when they were shown at REDCAT here in Los Angeles earlier this month. Hill was an important filmmaker and activist in New Orleans who received national attention for all the wrong reasons when she was killed (and her husband wounded) in January in their home in the Marigny. The reviewer for the L.A. Weekly who previewed the REDCAT retrospective referred to Hill's 1999 film Your New Pig Is Down The Road as "exuberant, with brilliant flashes of cheerful daisies superimposed on a baby pig--a love letter [to Hill's husband, Paul Gaillunas] perhaps unlike any other." I really wish I gotten to see it. There is lovely site paying tribute to Helen Hill here that lists other upcoming screenings of her playful, homemade animated films.

Today's image is of Hill, Gaillunas, and their pet pig Rosie in New Orleans in a clever parody of the Lucky Dog carts one sees all over the French Quarter. I found it here at the site of John Porter, another Super 8 filmmaker.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All Pigs Are Beautiful

Dick King-Smith has also written a children's book about the characteristics and habits of pigs called All Pigs Are Beautiful (1993). It is illustrated by Anita Jeram and is available in the U.S. from Candlewick Press. As the frontispiece notes, "There are little pigs and big pigs, pigs with long snouts and pigs with short snouts, pigs with ears that stick up and pigs with ears that flop down. But all pigs are beautiful." Several pages of the book, ideal for ages three and up, by the way, are dedicated to the story of King-Smith's beloved pig Monty. In a tacit critique of industrial agriculture, King-Smith observes that "the luckiest pigs, like Monty, live outside."

I'll be at a meeting starting tomorrow in New Orleans. I'm looking forward to getting back to a place I used to live, albeit briefly. I'll be posting again next week about my trip to Cochon and the opening of my friend David Rae Morris' exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. So see you next week. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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Monday, October 01, 2007

A "Very Small Animal" Named Piglet

Piglet, one of the most famous fictional pigs in children's literature, made his debut in A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh in 1926. This "Very Small Animal" lived in house in a large beech-tree with an old, broken sign next to it reading TRESPASSERS W. Throughout these stories, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, Piglet is easily frightened, but nevertheless continues to try to be courageous. My favorite adventure of Piglet's in the original book involved his being trapped in his tree during a flood. As he notes, "It's a little Anxious to be a Very Small Animal Entirely Surrounded by Water."

The first of the Disney adaptations of Winnie-the-Pooh appeared in 1966. Piglet was absent, replaced by Gopher, which, according to director Wolfgang Reitherman, was believed to have a "folksy, all-American, grass-roots image." After protests by fans, Piglet was reintroduced in 1968's Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Disney still makes film and television programs with Pooh and Piglet, most recently Piglet's Big Movie (2003). There is a lot of Piglet merchandise out there, unsurprisingly. You can get a sense of the ongoing legal battle between the Milne family and Disney from a BBC article here.

Speaking of children's toys, I still have my childhood Steiff bear, identical to the growler model that the real Christopher Robin Milne had (see picture; Piglet is the very small animal in the middle, to the left of the stack of books). I too called my bear Pooh, although it hasn't survived in nearly as nice shape as Milne's. You can see the original toys at the New York Public Library, by the way. I must have seen the Disney films in the late 1960s, but I've largely forgotten them. I certainly prefer the original look of Ernest Shepard's Piglet and his friends.

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