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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Eight: The Tatra Mountains

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The ladies of the family. When it comes to singing the songs they put the men to shame.
Michael Palin - New EuropeA bottle of slivovitz, the local plum brandy, is passed around as the men take a rest before the next part of what is a very physical process. A triangular scaffold is erected above the tub, hooks are attached to the carcass and it is hauled, with great effort, up into a vertical position. Then the demolition of the pig begins. This is part surgery, part carpentry, part brute force. Hammer, axe and knife are used in equal measure. The head is removed and carefully cleaned, a blow-torch being applied to remove the most resistant bristles. The ribcage and backbone are knocked through with a series of heavy blows.

Soon the whole area beside the house is full of activity as bits of pig are distributed to every available vessel, from huge pots to buckets and bowls.
When I go for a pee in the house, I find the bath and basin full of pig parts.

Within a couple of hours almost everything has been processed by hand. Rather too literally, I fear, as I notice one of the men has a small plaster around the end of his finger, which certainly wasn't there earlier.

I rather baulked at scraping the dead pig, but can't resist when invited to help make sausages. This involves attaching recycled stomach lining to a mincer (the only piece of machinery used in the entire process), feeding in the meat and turning a handle. It sounds easy enough but I turn it with such an excess of zeal that my first sausage is over a yard long and the old ladies scream at me to stop.

There is a very good meal at the end of the process. Carvers, carriers, cooks and camera crew sit at tables in a small wood-fenced garden outside the log cabin, with the snow-capped Tatras at our backs, eating liver and pork escalopes that were walking around only a few hours earlier. And as they eat they sing. The leader of the pig slaughterers fancies himself as a bit of a tenor but slivovitz has got the better of him by now and he starts songs with violent passion and several keys too high, only to turn bright red with the effort and relapse into surly silence a moment later. Then, just when everyone thinks he's given up, he starts again, this time something low and deeply mournful, which seems to get the mood all wrong. In the end he, and the other men, are left to mutter blearily whilst the women, gathered together on another table, sing sweetly and gracefully. And they know all the words.
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The ladies of the family. When it comes to singing the songs they put the men to shame.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Eight: The Tatra Mountains
  • Country/sea: Slovakia
  • Place: 仕iar
  • Book page no: 255

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  • Eating
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 3 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 6 
  • Pole to Pole