Tattooed Pork Doesn’t Taste Different, It Just Looks That Way
Prolific pork purveyor Bev Eggleston of Virginia's EcoFriendly Foods had urged everyone to join him for "not a pre-dinner prayer," but rather to "be mindful" of all that went into Monday's tattooed pig roast at Ba Bay on Capitol Hill. "It's been a long trip from the farm to the table," he says, swirling a glass of tempranillo. "We're partaking of something much bigger than a meal."
The unique charity event, which took some heat for its odd theme, attracted more than 50 diners at two separate seatings on Monday evening. Eggleston points out that most factory farmed pork is tattooed with a national identification number, anyway. At least organizers of event were trying to better "champion the animal," he says, by "adding value and creativity" through the addition of various designs in non-toxic cuttlefish ink on its flesh. The crispy tattooed skin was later served to ticket holders. Diners I spoke with couldn't taste the difference.
Attendees feasted on five courses utilizing every inch of a six-month-old, 110-pound shoat born and raised on Eggleston's farm in Bedford County. "That's the whole pig," says chef Nick Sharpe, "from head to toe." Even the bones went into creating a smoky broth for Sharpe's delicate pork-mousse and egg yolk dumplings, which many diners cited as their favorite dish of the night. Some even nagged the chef to add the tasty item to Ba Bay's regular menu. Sharpe, though, seemed reluctant. "I think my sous chef would kill me," he says, noting that it took five and a half hours to put together all 150 dumplings. It took another 15 hours to roast the whole pig. "I had to cut off its head to fit it in the oven," Sharpe says.
Foodie Eric Newhaus of Clarendon won an online auction to emblazon part of the pig with a tattoo of his choosing. He selected the image of a sexy woman riding a slice of bacon, a sort of tasty homage to the lady bomb-rider logos of past wars. "I can see how some people might find that offensive," says Newhaus. "It's bacon. On a pig. In retrospect, I may have changed it a little bit. But, at the same time, if you can't find the humor in that, I mean, come on."
Some select photos of Sharpe's dishes.
Green papaya salad with barbecue pork and crispy salt-pepper shrimp
Pork mousse-egg yolk dumplings in smoked pork broth, pork hock, celery hearts
Chicken fried pork, ginger-stewed mustard greens, pickled turnips, fish sauce glaze
Photos by Samantha Le