Originally published July 23, 1984
Since earliest times, hunting the vicious wild boar with hounds and spears, has been a prestigious sport for kings and noblemen. In ancient Rome ostentatious hosts vied with each other in their manner of serving this celebrated beast. Guests at the dinner table of Servillus Rullus (291 B.C.) were once presented with a large roasted boar which was skillfully carved open to reveal a second entire animal, which in turn opened to a third: delicacies diminishing in size continued to be unsheathed until at last a dainty little figpecker (small bird) terminated the series of strange meats. A Macedonian named Caranus gave each of his 20 wedding guests one entire roasted boar as well as a silver platter on which the guest’s slave might bear the memento home. The first doggy bag perhaps.
Because the fiercest and largest boars are the greatest challenge to the hunter but are the oldest and toughest to eat, only the giant head of the conquered adversary was served as a special treat. The head was singed, scraped and completely boned. The ears were removed for separate cooking. The diced tongue and a few fleshy pieces from just under the skin were added to a stuffing made of chicken, lean ham, mushroom, nuts and other delicacies.
The boar skin was then reshaped around this stuffing, wrapped in a cloth, and simmered for several hours in a jellied stock. When cooled, it was glazed and duly appointed with ears, tusks and false eyes and occasionally a flower over one ear. This prized trophy was traditional as a first course at Christmas or for a state occasion.
In England, King Henry II served a boar’s head to his son on the occasion of the young prince’s coronation in 1170. The boar’s head celebration became an annual event long ago at Queen’s College, Oxford, when a student who was reading Aristotle in the nearby forest of Shotover was attacked by an open-mouthed wild boar. The resourceful scholar jammed the text down the throat of his assailant, choked the brute, and delivered the animal’s head to the chief steward who prepared it for Christmas dinner.
Pork deserves to be considered elegant party fare, worthy of the finest menu when it is served to your most favored guests. Here are a few of our favorite pork recipes - The Kitchen Mouse will furnish the recipes and you only have to muster a few guests and a reason for a celebration.