There’s a lot that matters about Tyson Ho’s upcoming event, Hog Days of Summer. There’s expertise, the art of Eastern North Carolina Whole Hog BBQ that Tyson learned from his mentor, the legendary Pitmaster Ed Mitchell, one of the greatest practitioners and promoters of that style of BBQ in the country. There’s respect, both for the regional specificity of Whole Hog Barbecue, slow-cooked over wood embers and served with a vinegar pepper sauce, and for every delicious part of the hog itself, neck, cheeks, tail, spine and all. And there’s tradition, which Tyson eloquently details on his blog, the profound origins of Whole Hog BBQ as the meal slaves prepared at the end of harvest season. It was a dedicated, improbable celebration in the face of the most inhumane, destructive, and evil institution in U.S. history.
Tyson, the resident whole hog expert at Long Island City’s food and music oasis, John Brown Smokehouse, frequently compares Whole Hog BBQ to the “irrationality” of Thanksgiving. Both meals are epic in production and scale, both take time, build suspense, and delay gratification. Most importantly, both meals bring large groups of people together, encouraging us to collectively slow our pace, take a break from the hustle of our daily routine, and truly enjoy something. Ho says it best himself:
“You can not have whole hog BBQ without lots of people. Lots of people to cook it, lots of people to eat it. It is uncompromising in its demand for a community gathering. You can cook brisket, ribs, pulled pork for yourself but no one could reasonably eat a hog by themselves.”
And so it is Thanksgiving, but with a pig instead of a turkey – and let’s face it, pig is tastier.
The Hog Days of Summer are, in the best possible way, an antithetical antidote to our urban existence. The one coming up on June 22nd has, as the star of the show, a Tamarack Hollow Farm Glocestershire Old Spot pig that will be slow-smoked over hardwood embers. Unlimited craft beer will be provided by Founders Brewery, and Blues musician “Blind Boy” Paxton will provide the entertainment.
The event will be staged in an empty lot at the corner of 28th Street and 40th Avenue in Long Island City. Tyson and his team will start barbecuing the big pig on-site 16 hours before, and the next day the lot will fill up with people curious about whole hog BBQ, ready to eat, and excited to spend a day out-of-doors, cracking pig skin with one another. This is surely an odd scene for New York City, and, undoubtedly, a lovely one: a change, a relief, a celebration, a thanks giving.