Tool, Texas, USA | May 28-30, 2016
Our original plan was to leave Austin for our great travel adventure in mid-May. When our dear friends, Bryan and Leslie, invited us their 3rd Annual Memorial Day Pig Roast in Tool, TX at Leslie’s family’s beautiful home, we knew we had to change our plans so we could attend.
Most of the pig preparations we enjoyed participating in last year (butchery, pit construction, and brining) were already completed by the time we arrived early Saturday evening. The weeks leading up Memorial Day weekend have been exceptionally crazy as we’ve sold and donated almost all of our possessions… more on that later. Anyway, we arrived much later than we would have liked, but it really couldn’t be helped. So much to do in Austin to finish getting ready for our new lives as nomads.
Shortly after we arrived, Mark and Susan (Leslie’s parents) made delicious hamburgers for everyone. After dinner, we sat around the camp fire admiring the stars (Mars and Jupiter easily seen) in the dark night sky. It was a little warm out for a fire, but this was no ordinary fire. This was a fire with purpose!
In true home chef fashion, Bryan opted to try something new. This year, they would cook the pig with 100% post oak wood coals. We burned down a dozen or more logs to coals so they could be added to the pit bright and early Sunday morning.
At an ungodly hour Sunday morning, Bryan and the other designated chefs took the pig out of the brine (beer, sugar, and salt) and placed the pig in the carefully constructed pit of cinder blocks (or concrete masonry units, as Bryan’s dad was quick to correct us).
All the chefs had a fancy app called Tappeque on their phones to keep track of the internal temperature of both the pit and the pig. It was common to see phones buzzing as temperatures dipped below a certain threshold, cooks descending on the pit to add more coals/wood, or to just check on the pig.
Mark, Leslie’s dad, led a softball game—another Memorial Day weekend ritual—with anyone who wanted to play. It was great fun to watch the adults and kids play a friendly game. Even though Chris got some great hits during the game (runs and RBIs aplenty!), his team didn’t win.
Around noon, Bryan held a ceremony as part of The Great Pig Flip. He awarded sashes and badges to chefs, sous chefs, and helpers who’ve been involved in the preparations over the years.
Chris was awarded two stars in recognition for his attendance (one star for each year), as well as a badge for Partially Flooded Accommodations, Pit Engineering, and Mobile Temperature Tracking and Emergency Fire Maintenance.
Kaci was also awarded two stars, as well as a badge for Extreme Butchery and Partially Flooded Accommodations.
(The Partially Flooded Accommodations badge was in recognition of our experience from the 2nd Annual Memorial Day Pig Roast when we slept in a tent during a strong thunderstorm that flooded our tent in a foot of water. This might be a slight exaggeration, but honestly not a large one.)
At 3:30pm, the pig came off the pit and began to rest. Everyone lingered around the pig smelling it’s piggy goodness and Sous, Bryan and Leslie’s dog, was ushered into the house lest she get any ideas about her own role in the pig consumption…
Sometime around 4pm, the whole neighborhood came together bringing side dishes and a sense of community. It felt like an extended family sharing in this yearly ritual — a time to celebrate and spend quality time together. Lots of hugs and smiles and kindness and joviality.
At 5pm, the pig was served. We ate under a big beautiful pecan tree. The juicy, smoky meat wrapped in crispy skin was piled high on our plates. The pig belly and tenderloin were succulent and moist. The flavor was distinctly smokey.
I filled my belly with pork and sides (beans, cole slaw, pasta salad, fruit, and more). We washed it down with Bryan’s special Pale Ale Pig Roast home brew, a crisp dangerously drinkable beer.
“I’m going for seconds,” Chris said as he got up from his chair. I gave him the secret eye brow raise indicating to get extra for me. He laughed, but brought back a few large pieces for me. I attempted to chew slowly, careful to enjoy every morsel.
As I finished up my seconds, I looked over at Chris’s plate. A few more bites sat forlorn on the edge. Chris had relaxed back in his seat, full and happy, so I did him the great service of clearing his plate of those last few bites. (You’re welcome.)
Not five minutes later… “Anyone else want more of the pig belly or cheek if I go get some more?” Bryan asked. My hand shot up, my thinking-brain completely separate from the act. I couldn’t stop. I literally couldn’t stop.
Yes, I admit this. I got didn’t just get seconds. I got thirds. In some communities, you might even consider it forths. By the time I stopped eating, I was nearly in a food coma. But I was content. Pig Roast weekend is the best weekend.
“They’re serving dessert now… Susan’s homemade peach ice cream…” someone said. Suddenly, my stomach had cleared a little space and I was sitting under the sun eating the most delicious, most peachy peach ice cream with a chocolate chip cookie. Lactose intolerance be damned. (Yes, I suffered for this one. WORTH IT.)
We sat around talking, digesting, smiling, laughing. As folks started to leave, the crew began the clean up. It was either move or nap and I was grateful for the reason to move. Just as we finished cleaning, a storm rolled into Corsica, TX about 30 miles away. For hours, we sat on the porch and watched the fingers of light scrawl across the night sky, a great light display. Who needs fire works?
I managed to get some great shots of the light:
We collapsed into a tired, happy heap and slept well.
Monday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed back to Austin.
We love Leslie, Bryan, and their families. Every time we see them, I see what exceptional hospitality looks like. They’re the kindest, easy going, and most laid back family and exceptional hosts.
It was an easy weekend for us and after the preparation from the month of May, we were fried. It was good to step away from Austin for a couple of days to do the things we love most: eating good food with friends we love.