Oliveto’s 19th Annual Whole Hog Dinners–and Looking Back

Willis Hog Farm from Oliveto Community on Vimeo.

Our first Whole Hog Dinner, in 2000, represented two sources of excitement for us:  first, our Chef, after spending years in Italy mastering hog butchery and in innumerable ways making use of the whole animal, had, at Oliveto, been serving house-made fermented and cured salumi, along with spit-roasted brined hams,aristas, wood-grilled chops, and so on, to considerable accolades from critics and customers. And second, we were part of a community that was, it turns out, changing the food system: we’d developed relationships with traditional, family hog farmers whose practices were humane and organic, and who were delighted to finally have connections with cooks who deeply appreciated what they were doing.

Our original hog farmers were Don Watson, who had a small family operation in Napa, and Paul Willis in Iowa, part of the Niman cooperative of family farmers. We visited both farms, and saw first-hand why it was their meats were so fine. At Paul’s place, the farrowing barn was a highlight. Naturally inseminated (we know what that means) sows and their litters of piglets had every opportunity to indulge in their natural behaviors. When they’d had it with their offspring, the mothers could escape to a comfortable, hay-strewn portion of the barn and be with their friends, the other sows. The babies, at all stages, were given warmth, isolation from other litters, and clean beds. Even in the dead of winter, the sows had the option to go out into the surrounding fields should the need to be alone grab them. There was a barn cat who, from atop the partitions separating the litters, seemed to assume a proprietary role in the barn.

We used words like “authentic” and “genuine”—commonplace enough now—and created a series of videos we called Real Food, the attached piece being the second in that sequence. Now, nineteen years later, the traditional pork dishes and salumistill represent a high point in artisanal pork butchery, and the new dishes add the excitement of Chef Jonah Rhodehamel’s creativity. Family hog farms have proliferated, and each offers different breeds with different diets and variations on humane husbandry practices.

 

Menu will be à la carte

& includes non-pork items

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