Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The weird moments in my life have all been powered by curiosity, and when I look back on those instants I find myself wondering how did that happen? The answer usually boils down to me being curious and taking advantage of the moment. Before our trip to Puerto Rico I had never heard of the "Suckling Pig Road;" then I was on it. Humor and curiosity are what create a marriage as far as I'm concerned so mine must be a match made in heaven. We're going into our 15th year of marriage and travel and we still amuse ourselves on the road. It took a healthy dose of curiosity to find ourselves sitting in what appeared to be a refugee camp chowing down on foods hard to identify by name or appearance in a lonely mountains fastness.Its a weird food, a whole pig, cooked and cut to pieces, but I've seen this style of cooking growing up in Italy, where rosemary is the flavor preferred by the locals. In Key West holidays are celebrated by Cubans cooking a pig in a box. Call them weird but they line a box with metal, put a heap of coals in the bottom and put the pig on top and replace the lid. It makes perfect sense on an island where digging a hole requires a back hoe and patience. In Hawaii the water table is lower and soil is widely available on the ground so they dig easy holes, drop in the coals and the pig and call it a luau.
There is a place in Puerto Rico's mountains, shaded not by palms but by pine trees called Cayey, and in this nondescript village every Sunday Puerto Ricans descend en masse and devour lechon, milk fed pork. We happened on the village mid morning and sensing an event we stopped our headlong flight along the tourist route through the mountains and, as I was accompanied by not one but two women, we inevitably started to shop.
A beer, sodas, pork, beans, yellow rice and a plate full of starchy vegetables set us back $22, served on Styrofoam with plastic utensils. We ate at a picnic table in a fair approximation of a warehouse. It was entirely satisfactory and culturally isolating for we saw no other confused mainlanders poking strange vegetables on their plates with consternation writ large on their faces. We were alone in a hall filled with lechon fanatics.