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Sports commentary: A salute to pork

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Pigging out with the Norfolk Tides

By Mike Forster

 

"A jug of wine, a loaf of bread–and thou."

-Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

"A jug of mustard, a bun of bread–and onions."

-Rubaiyat of Oscar Mayer

 

I'm pretty much an Oscar Mayer guy.

But, as with just about everything else in life, my simple ways have been blown out of the water by progress.

In the case of ballpark food, the pathetic nature of my menu of a hot dog, some peanuts and a beer was pointed out in severe fashion via a clipping the sister-in-law sent to us.

This clipping, from a Hampton Roads newspaper, contained a news release from the Norfolk Tides (the Triple A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles).

The release revealed that the team has added a "Salute to Pork Challenge."

Now, when I was in the Army, one rendered a salute to show respect for rank or accomplishment.  The Tides' salute involves serving up a five-pound monstrosity consisting of:  four pulled-pork barbecue sliders, four Cajun smoked sausages, a dozen Smithfield pork wings, a healthy portion of Smithfield bacon (ironic adjective is mine) and a clot o' chili-cheese tots.

You're probably wondering the same thing I did when I first heard about this:  What in tarnation is a pork wing?

Rest easy, my friends.  It is not the result of some crazed lab experiment, like the ones where they grow a human ear on the back of a mouse.

No, a pork wing is taken from the shank (lower part of the leg).  It has a couple of ounces of pork meat on a bone.  A pork wing can be sauced just as you might a Buffalo wing (which isn't from a buffalo, but from a chicken).

So, to review:  Apparently, there are such things as pork wings and buffalo wings, but no chicken wings.  I suppose, as none of these animals can actually fly, none of the vernacular really matters.

Anyway, back to the five-pound horror show, er, salute.

The idea is that any Tides fan who orders this mess has one hour to completely finish it.  If he (or she) cleans his (or her) plate in sixty minutes, he (or she) gets the meal for free.  He (or she) also receives four tickets to a future Tides game and gets to have his (or her) photo displayed on the stadium restaurant's Wall of Fame.

As an aside:  I realize my putting "or she" and "or her" in parentheses above was annoying.  I do so as a public service, however.  One might think there are no ladies capable of downing five pounds of pork wings, Cajun smoked sausages and the rest in a day, let alone an hour.  Still, you never know.

So, if you happen to be thinking about marrying a damsel from the Tidewater area, you might want to swing by the Tides' stadium and see whose images grace its Wall of Fame, just to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, if the fan fails to polish off this plentiful plate o' pork products, his picture  is hung on the restaurant's Wall of Shame.  He also has to pony up $29.95 to pay for his meal, though it is unclear who pays for the subsequent angioplasty.

A few thoughts come to mind here.  First, I've got a pretty good appetite.  In fact, in my prime, I had an excellent appetite.  But, even in those days of yore, I wouldn't have been able to down one half of this mess.  Even then, I'd have been deathly ill as a result.

Before you jump in your cars and head to the Tides, think about it.  Could you really put five pounds of food into your gullet in an hour?

If, however, you are bent on taking up the challenge, you'd best do it this year.  My second thought is that this will be the final year for the Salute to Pork Challenge.

That's because Smithfield Foods, which provides much of the grub in the challenge, is in the process of being sold to the Shuanghui Group.

Also known as the Shineway Group, this organization is the biggest meat processor in China.

The Chinese, it would seem, have developed their own salute to pork.  It involves buying Smithfield to help sate the newfound love of meat that has come with China's newfound wealth.

According to the USDA, annual meat consumption in China has risen from roughly 10 million tons in 1980 to about 70 million tons today.  In comparison, over that same stretch the U.S. has gone from about 23 million tons to about 32 million tons.

Numerous reports show that Chinese farmers, limited by a number of factors, are unable to keep up with demand for meat.

 I seriously doubt, once Smithfield becomes China-owned, that the new overlords will allow their products to be used in such gluttonous endeavors as the Salute to Pork held by the Tides.

I may be able to investigate this situation first-hand, as the wife and I are planning a trip to the Tidewater area this summer.

Should I go to a game, should I order that Salute to Pork.  I'd only do so if I had help on hand.  That's where the wife, the sister-in-law and the brother-in-law come in.

It's more likely, however, that you'd find the four of us sitting in the sunshine enjoying a bottle of beer, some peanuts and the company of my good friend, Oscar Mayer.