I frantically directed my taxi past buildings with addresses like “54-48 47th Drive” and businesses like Maspeth Pallets, a place in non-subwayable Queens where, as the name suggests, you can buy wooden pallets. There are industrial warehouse-y areas in New York City that are destined to become thriving (like Bushwick, or SoHo before that), and there are others that will never, ever become cool. Maspeth is one of the latter. The industrial part of Maspeth is where the sanitation department maintains a headquarters, where old city buses go out to pasture, and where all types of ugly stuff critical to the running of a city happens.
It’s also where Fedex maintains a storage facility. Packages that Fedex trucks fail to deliver over the course of a day end up in Maspeth overnight. The destination alone is sufficient deterrent to keep most people from chasing after their undelivered goods, no matter how precious the cargo; it’s why you wait for redelivery.
But I made the trip. I came for a pig.
My 55-pound beauty had been shipped out several days prior, and if I didn’t go pick it up, not only would that night’s meal be without a main course but the pig, destined to be my first whole roast pig, would be left to spoil over the weekend. And that just wouldn’t do, for all sorts of reasons. But it was really busting my hump because I had nothing approaching a level of cool about the situation. I felt about my first pig roast the way a seventeen-year-old girl might feel about prom: I just wanted it to be perfect.
The pig was supposed to arrive Thursday; this would give two days’ time to thaw and marinate the pig before the Saturday dinner. But it didn’t work out that way; Fedex sucks, and lo and behold it was Saturday and I was chasing down my pig in the part of New York that is worlds away from the New York we all think about; Maspeth is Tattooine to Manhattan’s bright spot in the universe.
As the Fedex guy wheelbarrowed the coffin-shaped box out to me, he was so fixated on the bloody plastic bag that had started to poke out the corner of the box that I was compelled to tell him “it’s a pig.”
This pig had been destined for the spit; some friends and I have planned a party a month prior which involved buying our own spit from a single entrepreneur in China. The spit didn’t arrive in time, that party was cancelled, and the vendors of the pig we ordered were getting restless. So this pig arrived under no small amount of duress.
Ultimately I cooked the pig in a plywood box called a Caja China. It’s pretty ingenious. The box assembles in about 20 minutes with no tools, and folds and stores away flat. To cook, you flatten out the pig, put it in the box, cover the box, put charcoal on the box. Later you add more charcoal to the top of the box. Four hours later, your pig is done.
There’s not much more impressive than a large roast animal as a main course for a crowd. And this is especially true when you’re presenting one of the top two tastiest animals going.