I’m Slaughtering a Pig to Feed It to My Wedding Guests

When ethical eating has very sad eyes

Three and a half years ago, I saw a lithe, heavily bearded man running toward me through a piazza in Siena, Italy. Two men (who were, by this point, already my friends) ran out from behind me to scoop this stranger into a hug. This stranger and I looked at each other with marginal interest and both thought, “Eh, not my type.”

I’m marrying him. After that initial “meh,” we spent the next six months bopping around a thousand-acre Tuscan farm, learning about butchering, wine, and love, and the three and a half years since holding each other up during the hardest times and giggling giddily at each other otherwise.

Wedding Checklist: Slaughter Wedding Pig

During the eighteen-month planning process, I’ve been checking APW’s checklists and spreadsheets and adjusting to fit us. Like many couples, our two-weeks-till checklist includes items like “pick up dress and suit,” “triple-check rentals list,” and “get marriage license!”… as well as more unusual tasks like “build kill chute” and “slaughter Wedding Pig.”

You see, Vincent’s and my partnership was built on the foundation of our food values. We care about food, a lot, and thus we care about animals and the environment. After returning together from Italy and deciding we were going to do this love thing, we left our established lives and his family in North Carolina to move to the Finger Lakes region of New York. We now have twenty-one acres, fourteen heritage breed pigs (at least until the next litter is born, any day now), five sheep, three goats, a Jersey cow, a bunch of birds, two working livestock guardian pups, and three cats. And an untidy garden full of organic vegetables and woods trimmed with vibrant, wild black raspberries and blackberries. All of this is a lot of work, especially because we both have full-time day jobs, but we chose this lifestyle so we can truly feel good about what we eat, and not contribute to the FIC (food industrial complex … sound familiar?).

Growing Our Wedding Food

We knew, from the start, that we would cater our wedding ourselves. We knew that it would be a lot of work and that our families would tell us that we’re crazy or foolish. (It is, they did.) We knew that it was going to make the week before the wedding—already stressful for all couples, regardless of wedding size or flavor—an extra grueling test in endurance, partnership, skill, and organization. But we had catered a (much smaller) wedding before, successfully, and picked up a year’s worth of service gigs for strangers’ weddings; we felt up to the challenge.

Now, our wedding is in two weeks.

In the next fourteen days, we, like all almost-married couples immemorial, will worry about the weather (our rain plan, a building at the nature center that is our venue, doesn’t exactly accommodate all of our two hundred–plus guests in any one room). We’ll pick up our marriage license, finalize lists of decor items to transport to the venue, and hug far-flung friends and family as they arrive to help and witness the enormity of this occasion.

But we’ll also pick up many, many pounds of vegetables, harvested that morning and still dressed in dirt, from a friend who farms five acres by hand.

We’ll clean and chop those vegetables, simmer Tuscan white beans in an onion stock, bake vegan cornbread along with swathes of regular cornbread, made from scratch with our own chickens’ eggs.

We’ll dress the salads we make from our friend’s veggies with olive oil from the Tuscan farm where we met.

Tears Over Our Pig

And we’ll also say goodbye to Wedding Pig in the wooded pasture where he spent his life, and thank him for his existence and unwilling gift. Then we’ll pull the trigger and cry (and, honestly, probably cry bucketloads, because once I start, I’ll need the release, and I know I won’t have time to reread The Deathly Hollows, that trusty wellspring of tears). And then, the hardest part over, we will carefully, reverently transform him into simple, slow-cooked pork fit for our commitment and celebration.

The burgeoning excitement is beckoning us to float off in happiness at having come this far and having accomplished so many of our goals together, but we have to keep our feet on the ground long enough to make our wedding plans come to fruition. We still have to complete the solemn, terrible task of slaughtering Wedding Pig and live out the full responsibility and emotion that comes with the choice to eat meat. But we’ll feel great about the food we serve to our two hundred–plus family and friends, and, bellies full, we’ll giggle giddily the rest of the night, holding each other and dancing off all of that wine and emotion.

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