Eating a legend
My meeting with the Mangalitza
Until recently, the Mangalitza, or Mangalitsa, or Mangalica pig was the stuff of stories for me. This woolly pig, first selected in Hungary, has been raved about as a very tasty pig indeed, a breed whose salvation lay in being eaten more widely. On a couple of trips to Hungary I did keep half an eye open for it, but at least on my sketchy investigations it appeared to be without honour in its own country.
So I was really surprised to find it on the menu of a fine new restaurant nearby. I didn’t choose the large chunk -- I think a chop -- on offer, because they had already brought some Mangalitza mortadella on a pizza bianca and I had ordered beef tongue as my antipasto and a pizza with prosciutto di Mangalitsa.
The restaurant prides itself on being sustainable and authentic and all the other good things, so I was naturally curious about where the pigs had come from. Not Hungary, surely?
Oh no, they’re raised for us on a farm near Viterbo.
I think it must be the Villa Caviciana, which looks like it could be an excellent destination for an expedition.1 And when I make that expedition, microphone in hand, one thing I want to know is why a Hungarian pig? Is the equivalent Italian eat-it-to-save-it Cinta Senese already passé? Or sufficiently well protected? There are other endangered Italian pig breeds;2 maybe, despite all the enthusiasm for ancient breeds, they just aren’t as good to eat as Mangalitsas.
The mortadella was absolutely delicious and, as you can see, much chunkier than the commercial stuff (which is also delicious, but in a much more unctuous sort of way).3 I can’t really offer an opinion of Mangalitsa specifically, as I have never before had an artisanal mortadella. Maybe next time, because there definitely will be a next time, I’ll go for a hunk of Mangalitsa meat so I can report back.
The English version of the website, for some reason (human error?) has no information about the meat and sausage. ↩
Pardon me while I have a little rant. You would think that a list of a country’s endangered breeds would be easy enough to find. Especially if the country is the home of, say, Slow Food. You would be wrong. One can find that seven breeds are considered endangered and three as critical, if one knows how. One can even find a list of 10 names: Casertana, Cinta Senese, Duroc italiana, Ibrido, Mora Romagnola, Nero Siciliano, Sarda, Siciliano, Spot, Apulo-Calabrese, if one knows how. But the data that gives you the names says only that each is “at risk”. Which is critically at risk? I have no idea. Big thanks to my compadre Luigi, who got me this far, and has beaten his head against this particular brick wall before. ↩
The beef tongue too was delicious, but that's another story, as was the excellent pizza. ↩
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