Last weekend saw the celebration of ‘la matanza’ in our village. Celebration may sound like an odd term for the butchering of a pig, even to meat-eaters’ ears, but if so that says rather a lot about our privileged, pre-packaged lives and the distance we generally keep between us and the reality of the provenance of our food.
Me, I’d like to think of the matanza as a sort of porcine wake – a festive yet serious gathering of all family and community members to celebrate all that is good about the pig.
City-dwelling sons and daughters return to the family homestead to join the village in an assembly around the body, each with a task to perform. The elders of the village are invited to oversee proceedings, to ensure that all is done as it always was. (For me, seeing my 90 year old neighbour relishing this role was cause enough for celebration.)
Every last edible bit of the pig is honoured and put to use, from the ears to the trotters via everything in between. Gossip is caught up on, much cafe con leche is drunk, biscuits eaten and, of course, porky bits nibbled.
The village dogs and cats are chased from the open barn door but lurk hopefully and are sometimes rewarded with a tossed tit-bit. The children sit on the floor playing with their (occasionally blood spattered) toys and they are rewarded with a round of sausages of their own to bring home for their dinner.
In the evening a hearty meal will be eaten and home-made cider drunk. It’s a community affair that lasts a whole weekend and unites families and entire villages.
Historically every household in rural Asturias kept a pig that they would butcher annually. Now, with the exodus that has taken place to the city (but that interestingly in these times of economic crisis seems to be going into reverse) many families do not keep a pig but yet they will buy one whole from a trusted butcher and so the tradition lives on and families continue to manufacture their year’s supply of embutidos (the collective noun for all the Spanish sausages and cured hams.)
The pictures below are of Sunday morning’s chorizo making marathon. The chorizo will be hung, along with the morcilla (Asturian black pudding with squash and paprika) in a smokeroom for 10 days.