To “go whole hog” is a common expression meaning “to go the entire way” or “to the greatest extent” as far as something particular is concerned. Its origins, however, referred to eating and using the entirety of a slaughtered pig. As my dad used to say, “Use every part but the squeal.” Most people don’t eat every part of any animal, but some of us eat parts we usually wouldn’t care to if we actually knew the content of the prepared foods we eat. The most obvious is the intestines used as the casing for sausage. How many people would still buy sausage if the butcher hung a bunch of intestines above the kielbasa in the supermarket with a sign stating that the casings were well-cleaned intestines?
In the not-so-distant past, an entire animal was eaten or put to other use. Hooves were made into soap, and the skin of hogs was made into cracklings or into footballs. Early people could not afford to waste any part of an animal that could be used since they had to make everything they needed in life.
Supermarkets today cater to specific ethnic groups with animal parts not generally eaten by most people, and that ethnicity may shop at separate markets geared to their needs as well. In our area, Mexican markets are common. Especially in some cities, you may have markets for Asians, Cubans, East Indians, Russians, and so on.
In the late 1960s, I was stationed in Subic Bay in the Philippines for three months while our boat had needed repairs done. I only had duty once every eight days. I rented a room in a house in the city across from the base. I became friends with a group of young Filipino men who studied Karate together and generally hung out on the streets or at each other’s homes. They invited me to a party three houses down one evening. I showed up, and they were serving grilled meats and veggies. As my friends know, I am not bashful about food and dove right in, no questions asked. I noticed them staring at me as I ate and asked, “What?” They inquired if I knew what the meat was, and when I said, “No”, they told me it was dog. I replied with a grin, “It’s very tasty!” and took another bite. Their hopes for a successful prank had been dashed, and we then talked about the foods we eat or not. When I mentioned the liver, kidney, intestines, tongue, brains, and testicles I’ve eaten, they were repulsed. The joke was on them. I found out from them that in their culture, organ meats and other parts were not eaten. I knew that most of my shipmates probably held an aversion to eating dogs. Dogs in that part of the Philippines were raised for food, similar to how we raise turkeys, and are somewhat expensive to purchase.
Every diverse culture eats foods unique to them that others will not eat, even if offered in an upscale restaurant in their home country. Most of us can afford to be picky, but our ancestors were eating any food that would nourish the body by sheer necessity. If it comes down to living or dying, we will eat grubs, worms, and more and be happy to have them. Cultures that eat insects nowadays probably ate them in the past or faced starvation.
I’ve eaten “the whole hog,” and it was delicious. Haven’t found a way to save the squeal yet, though.