Like most farms in Ireland in the past ours was a mixed farm with cows, sheep, pigs, beet, potatoes and grain crops on the ancestral acres. All’s changed now, utterly changed and we are classed as a dairy farm. We still fatten a few pigs each year. As a child I can recall the day of the killing of the pig — a kind of a social ritual carried out in a traditional manner down the decades. Times have changed and now the slaughter and ‘curing’ of the meat is carried out in a butchers premises, specially licensed for such operations.
Anyway from trial and error over many years I have come to an amazing non-scientific conclusion in regards to the eating habits and proclivities of the pig. They say a balanced diet is essential for man and beast so we try and provide a great variety — the spice of life, in the foodstuffs we offer the pigs.
A single pig tends to be difficult to feed as they pick and choose from the ‘menu’ and nine times out of ten, a lot of what’s offered is left uneaten and has to be disposed of. When we have two or three pigs together it’s a case of ‘survival of the fittest’ and they tend to virtually lick their plates clean in a matter of minutes. There’s just one exception to that rule — orange skins and orange peel. Hungry or well-fed, the pigs will not eat orange skins. The flesh or segments of an orange -no bother, but not the skins. I’ve tried boiling, frying, grilling and stewing them but all to no avail. I even tried camouflaging them in cabbage leaves with teabag stuffing but no way Jòse, you couldn’t fool ‘em. Whatever is in the citrus skin, even when cooked and softened, it is not palatable to the pigs. Thus my question about Brazil, maybe they don’t ‘home’ fatten pigs in that vast country at all.
It must be something in the genetic make-up of the pig that allows them to eat apples, bananas, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips — and their skins, but imposes a ban on the orange skin. It must be in their ‘nature’ to avoid such foodstuffs.
Talking of that kind of ‘nature’ a friend said to me on Monday night “Well John, you’re after getting very strong” — I suppose he wanted not to insult me by saying I was after putting on weight! People have often said to me over the years ‘yerra you’ve very heavy bones’, another polite way of avoiding upsetting me! Now to tell the truth I’m not overly worried about my bulk but a recent encounter raised a few red flags for me.
A bit like the pigs we fatten, I’m a cosmopolitan eater. Curries and spicy foods are the only forbidden fruits for me. I don’t drink nor smoke but I do like food and I make no apologies for that guilty pleasure. Just last week I had my annual heart health check-up to examine all the cardiac-related issues. The nurse involved did all the tests including taking just a small amount of blood. I was measured, weighed, parsed and analysed. All the figures and statistics were fed into a laptop and this issued a kind of General Health Summary. For a man of my age with two hips replaced, appendix gone, middling eyesight, asthma, diverticulitis, very little hair, a hernia and a bunion she said I was an ‘amazing specimen’ of homo sapiens but a bit on the heavy side!
She explained that if I could increase my height by around four inches I’d be a perfect weight. So that’s Plan A, which I suppose isn’t a very realistic prospect at my age. Plan B then is simpler sounding but the divil is in the detail-just to lose two stone weight, that’s twenty eight pounds or 448 ounces. With Plan A a non-runner I have to concentrate on the alternative from now on. In recent years I’ve tried to lose weight but to be truthful, without much success. I find it hard to get time for vigorous exercise in the form of regular walking or jogging so I suppose food intake has to be my priority. Maybe the pigs now being fattened might say ‘well there’s no cloud without a silver lining’ — in the hope they might be left alone in their sty for four or five years!
The day after my Reality Check, well didn’t it just happen to coincide with a historic culinary experience. Back in April 2017 I purchased 24 large brown loaves of bread from Martin’s Bakery in Castlelyons. The Bakery ceased production that week after serving the local community for generations. I put the loaves, well wrapped, in the deep freeze for use as and when required. Well it happened last week, the last breakfast with the last loaf. ‘Here goes with my new healthy eating regime’ says I. For that historic meal I made a lettuce, beetroot and tomato sandwich, using the last two slices of the last Martin’s loaf. Ah yes, all good things do come to an end and that staff of life was truly delicious- as always. And now I face the future determined to shed those pounds — am I confident I have the will power to do so? I’m not sure, but if the pigs resolutely and absolutely refuse to eat orange skins why can’t I turn my face against sweets, treats, chocolate bars, sugary biscuits and second helpings?
The nurse I met last week asked me about meat’ What about it?’ says I — well says she how often would you have it to eat? Truthfully I told her I’d eat meat three times a day, seven days a week — and that’s pure true. ‘Whoa up there’ says she as I explained that when one has home produced bacon, beef and lamb it tends to nearly always ‘on the menu’.
‘What about steak?’ she asked. ‘What about it?’ says I. ‘Do you eat it often or rarely?’ says she. ‘Rarely’ says I — ‘well I mean I’d rarely eat steak on it’s own, normally with, chips, onions and mushrooms’ says I. ‘Well done’ says she and I replied ‘Thank you’ thinking she was praising my nutritional habits!.
She has restricted me now to having meat only 14 times a week. Well the pigs in the sty and the bullock above in the field were delighted when she insisted I cut down on my meat-eating habits.
‘What about eggs?’ says I. I’m now restricted to a maximum of seven a week. We have to buy smaller dinner plates too! As for lettuce and orange skins — the sky’s the limit!
Now there’s no tight timescale agreed for my bodily mass reduction but half a pound a week was a suggested target.