Last month while in Prague, Czech Republic, I happened to see an announcement of a “Pork Festival” in a public square near us. The day was very cold and by the time we arrived it was snowing, which added to the charm. Despite the weather there was a good crowd that seemed to be enjoying themselves. We did a circle of the booths to pick something to buy. As usual there were no signs in English so we chose a sausage that we could point to rather than pronounce. There was a large selection of pork dishes as well as a beer tent and a small stage with musicians. The most popular booth had two pig carcasses hanging and sausage stuffing going on.
Two days later we happened to spot another news article that announced the centuries-old tradition of pig slaughtering feasts were now considered outlawed by new European hygiene standards. Farmers can only butcher for their own home consumption; sharing with friends and neighbours would be subject to a huge fine ($16,000).
The fest that we went to was sponsored by the city government and was a sanitised version with no slaughtering on the premises. This event is especially popular with the older generation now living in the city. It brings back memories of their youth in the villages. The true winter pig festivals are declining but still popular through most countries of Europe. They pre-date Christianity, going back to pagan fertility rites. They act as a family home-coming celebration in Czech villages, much like the American Thanksgiving.
The day starts with a squealing pig strung up by its hind legs and dispatched by the butcher. Next the women wade in for the ingredients to blood soup, goulash with entrails, head cheese and, of course sausages. Finally different cuts are taken for curing and preserving and the best pieces are roasted for that day of partying.
I have written a great deal about the benefits of eating locally produced meat and vegetables. Now Brussels bureaucrats are forcing their point of view that pork produced in large factories is better for you than that raised in the field next door. Yet one often reads in the news of recall of contaminated meat from factories or warehouses but not any accounts of bad food that has personally passed the inspection of a local farmer and you buy in a local market.
I give a lot of travel advice and right now I strongly urge people to look for local festivals and events and participate before they are legislated out of existence or are smothered by worry-wart do-gooders who take the fun out of life.
I think all travellers enjoy reading travel adventures written during a past era. Tomorrow may be more sanitary and “correct” than today but will probably be less interesting and exciting. We used to say we want to travel while we are young enough to enjoy it; now we say get out and travel before the bureaucrats homogenize all culture.