Pig Pickin' Thanksgiving

by Derek Holser, Tastemaker in Residence

The proliferation of backyard turkey fryers over the past decade or so has led to an even higher aggregate cholesterol count (if possible) and emergency room visits from many an unintentional burn. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the widespread attempt to bring redneck convention to our blessed November tradition. But Thanksgiving is not just any holiday. It’s the mother lode of Americana. Formalized by President Lincoln (1863) and certified by FDR in 1942, Thanksgiving represents the eternal values of family, food and fun. As such, especially in the South where family, food and fun are the holy trinity of cultural values, T’giving is the most sacred secular day in civilization.

Which is why the turkey fryin’ pandemic gives yours truly concern about the future of this great nation. It’s like crocheted dinner placemats and paint-by-number drawings – if you want it done right, you hire an expert. And when it comes to Thanksgiving and really, really good food, there’s no better experts than the boys and gals in North Carolina and a mighty fine, gut bustin’ pig pickin’.

In Honest Abe’s day, pigs were a regular food down South, because they were a low-maintenance, convenient food source. Long before the current bacon craze, pig slaughtering was a family affair, out of which came the modern-day barbecue. According to historians, southerners ate, on average, five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef.

Nowadays, a pig pickin’ consists of the whole hog butterflied and spread over a huge grate cooker, complete with a cover and smokestack. The folks at What’s Cooking America have a great recipe.

While your pork is being prepared, set to workin’ on your sides. When I was a tyke, there was nothing better than a heapin’ pile of my grandmother’s sweet potato casserole, complete with melted marshmallow topping! Here’s a few staples from the Tar Heel state – Brunswick Stew and Hush Puppies. If you’re tired of Aunt Eunice’s green bean casserole with crispy onion topping and cream of mushroom slop, try these on for size



Once you’ve got all the food figured out, put on your finest Carhartt overalls and bring your wet wipes. Uncle Vern will have the mouthwatering pork ready to go, and we’ll use the turkey fryer for the hushpuppies. This Thanksgiving, let’s make Honest Abe and FDR proud. Let’s start a new tradition – pig pickin’ style!