Part 131: Pulled Pork

meat chunks

The first time I heard the words ‘pulled pork’, I was in LA. It was two or three years ago, it was a balmy, blue-skied day – as it always is in LA, although this particular day was a spring one, so as well as the sunshine there were pastel blossoms everywhere; blooming on tree branches, floating about in the warm breeze and dusting the pavement like confetti, except, thankfully, without a newly married couple anywhere in the vicinity, ruining the vibes. ‘I’m getting the pulled pork bun,’ my mate Tom said, looking up from his menu. We had gone for a late lunch – post-cocktails, pre-club, not quite late enough to call it dinner – and even though (or, more likely, because) I was half-cut already (what with the Bloody Marys and the margaritas and that massive mojito) I was momentarily distracted by Tom’s selection.

Pulled pork? I thought. Pulled pork? What’s pulled pork? It must be one of those American hillbilly foodstuffs, like grits and gumbo and ‘pudding’, which English people needn’t bother learning about because we’ll only ever come across them in Depression-era novels or on sitcoms, where a precise knowledge of what they actually are is unnecessary – we have grasped that they serve to evoke a kind of salt-of-the-earth, heavy, atmospheric domesticity, and that’ll do, for now. If I imagined anything when I heard the phrase ‘pulled pork’, then what I imagined was a giant pig carcass, de-boned and stretched taut, roasted thin and flat, over an open fire lit, perhaps, in a disused garbage can by filthy farm-hands with cowboy hats and mud-spattered faces, served crisp and crackling, skin on.

And then I forgot about pulled pork and concentrated on the tasks at hand. I ordered and ate my own lunch (the After-School Special: tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – a poor choice, in hindsight), drank some more margaritas, fell asleep in a nightclub and continued my holiday as planned – i.e: singing along to La Roux’s Bulletproof at the top of my lungs as we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows wound down and the soupy wind caressing our faces. Bliss.

That was then.

Now, I long for those days when pulled pork was a mysterious dish from an unfamiliar cuisine. Now, the repulsive stuff is everywhere and I know exactly what it is. Soft, stringy slow-cooked meat that looks and tastes as one would imagine a pale, chubby baby might look and taste, if she were slow roasted and her cooked flesh was tugged off the bone with a fork – which is, as far as I can gather, the ‘pulled’ part of ‘pulled pork’. It is made edible only with the addition of coleslaw and sugary sauces. A pulled pork bun is the kind of meal you might eat for a laugh at a barn dance, or on a US holiday, but it is certainly not the kind of meal you expect to be offered irony-free in a gastro-pub, pop-up nightclub or cinema foyer – to select just three of the places I’ve come across pulled pork in the past fortnight.

I know American barbecue is a passing trend; it’s all the rage due to the bearded gentrification demographic needing to assume an identity and having only post-80s popular culture from which to fashion one. I understand that pulled pork, rib tips and burgers in brioche (for the record: brioche is a sweet, rich bread suitable for spreading with jam at breakfast and essential for a decent bread-and-butter pudding. Sandwiching beef between it is uncouth in the extreme, and also revolting) will soon be part of history, and we’ll reminisce to our grandkids about the days when you couldn’t socialise anywhere in London without the background stench of charbroiled animal, and it’ll sound nostalgic and glamorous. But I’d like to call time now because enough is enough. Not only is this relentless barbecue culture making me nauseous, it is also seriously hampering any possibility that I might one-day have grandchildren to reminisce with.

I’m pretty sure that I am currently without a husband or a boyfriend at least partly because men fucking love eating pulled pork and it makes them gross. How am I supposed to fancy a bloke when the mere fact of consuming fatty, bland, carcinogenic slop, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, induces such smugness? When wiping his oily hands on his jeans instead of washing them makes him feel like a real man, from the movies? I know it can’t be all the men, but barbecue culture certainly gets the least desirable of them out in public – which, incidentally, is where I am to be found these days, if you’re up for a date. Or sex. I ain’t fussy.

(I am).

*The image is ‘Meat Chunks’ by Serge Bertasius Photography at freedigitalphotos.net.

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Part 130: Unrequited Love

kitty love

I fucking hate cats, usually. Like men they’re either ugly, good-looking but dumb to the point of irrelevance, or else transparently cunning. And, also like men, they do that thing where they treat you with indifference until you withdraw your affections, and then they’re all over you like salt on chips. Aloof, mewing fleabags that jump out from nowhere, hissing, with arched backs and spite-contorted faces, or else cross your path on Friday the thirteenth and curse you with bad luck forevermore. And they make me sneeze. I was a big fan of that woman who, a few years back, was caught on CCTV as she chucked a cat into a wheelie bin when she happened upon it during her daily stroll.

‘Drown the lot of ‘em’, I used to think, secretly — because saying stuff like that out loud is more likely to get you ostracised from polite British society than just about anything else, including, it would seem, from the many blind eyes turned to geriatric celebrity sleazery, child abuse.

But then, about six weeks ago, a tabby appeared in my back garden, eyeing me with a delicious malevolence; her yellow-green eyes flashing as she peered out from behind the bushes. You could tell, by how her languid movements suddenly turned razor-sharp, and from the way she turned her nose up at the double-cream I offered, that this was a kitty of above average intelligence, charisma and ability. I wanted her. I wanted her in that immediate, essential way you sometimes want a strong-backed stranger, except without the sexual overtones. I wanted her to want me. I wanted her to rub her kitten fur against my legs, to jump into my lap and fall asleep, purring as I fondled her velvet ears.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not wish to steal the cat from my neighbours. I know she isn’t mine; she’s made it perfectly clear that she has a loving owner who feeds her and provides her with stability and comfort in a manner I am not capable of at this time. I’m not asking much. I only want her to love me on the side; to visit me a couple of times a week for cuddles, chicken bits and a saucer of cream and return to her family afterwards.

But she’s not feeling my moves, and I don’t know what to do next.

It’s very hard with cats, because when they ignore you there are no obvious means of covertly attracting their attention — by which I mean you can’t ‘accidently’ send them a text message written for someone else, or find out where they’ll be on Saturday night, using your advanced social media surveillance skills, and turn up wearing a skin-tight mini-dress and red lipstick.

This is new territory.

I know where I am when men don’t want me. I can play maudlin pop music, down a few bottles of Prosecco and recall incidents from the past where he demonstrated that he was a total scumbag who didn’t deserve my love in the first place (there are always plenty of those) — and before I know it, I’m over the worst of the heartache and fantasising about someone new.

But that method has proved ineffective with cats. I can’t find a single decent love song about kittens, the Prosecco just makes me cry, and even her most terrible behaviour endears her to me all the more. Such as her predilection for hunting small creatures and toying with their corpses.

There she sits, in my garden, crouched low, scrutinising a tormented mouse as it jumps hither and thither and cowers in the grasses. When I walk over to investigate, she mews with disapproval, snatches the mouse in her little cat mouth, flashes me a cruel glance and pads off to set the mouse down further up the garden, where she can prod and tease it unwatched, before, no doubt, tearing it apart in a demented frenzy and delivering its eviscerated carcass to her owners as a sadistic thank-you for their ongoing provision of food and shelter.

It doesn’t matter how much I try, it’s clear, from the way she’s consistently rebuffed my advances, that next door’s cat won’t be gifting the dead mouse to me. Which means I’ve failed at the crazy cat lady hurdle of long term singledom – which, I suppose, I can choose to see as a silver lining, in the dark cloud of rejection. That’s the thing with unrequited love – there’s always a silver-lining.

*Image is “Cat Trying To Catch Love Heart” by mack2happy at freedigitalphotos.net. I’d like to point out that the cat who’s won my affections is considerably better looking than the cat in this photo.