In ancient Egypt it was strictly forbidden to consume pork, except for the days of full moon. In Asturias, far from this custom, it takes advantage of the “gochu” that is eaten for months and its meat is preserved all year round. This walking meat pantry has been revered by Asturians since ancient times, and the pig has become cult animal for families and entire generations because of the hunger that it took away.
It is true that the pig is raised all over the world, except in the countries whose majority religion is Muslim or Jewish. From ancient Greece this is so.
The pig was a divine animal, it was believed that it had fed Zeus himself. In Gaul, Obelix and company not only ate wild boar, but whole pigs. The Celts, Germans and Romans were always great consumers of pork. The latter taught us the organization of the killing and sale of meat in the butchers, institutionalizing the figure of the butcher as a trade. In almost all European culture the sacrifices of these animals to the gods was a purifying norm, to avoid the diseases that were believed to be transmitted by the products of the slaughter.
Asturias inherits from the civilization in which the love of the pig is inscribed, almost an object of desire, a religion that entails invocations to the saints so that everything goes well: «These pigs that are named, Saint John watch over you, amen; Saint Martin the appearing, amen; Saint Blas free you from all evil, amen… »
It will be precisely San Martin who gives the kick-off the November 11. The following months touches pig, but the killing itself was not exempt from an inaugural protocol. In many places in Asturias, two weeks before the animal was primed with chestnuts, and the previous day was subjected to fasting so that its guts were cleaned. There was nothing to do and the end was near: «Every Gochu gets his San Martin». And that this saying speaks of the gochu to refer to man himself and his destiny, a cruel metaphor, an unplayable moment, in short.
The sacrifice of the pig, and its parallel rituals, which for centuries shaped a worldview of survival are now little more than a memory. But they are in their manifestations, because the rite has been purified, changed forms, and although the slaughterhouses proliferate, the rural environment suffers from depopulation, and urban life supposes new rites, the products of the slaughter will always be the products of the slaughter , and the gochu will continue to occupy a dignified throne. Not in vain Asturias knows that it is indebted to its meat, and many are the populations that annually pay tribute to the pig for San Martín and the coming months, until February, even April. All Asturian geography devotes a few intense days to remember. He usually does it under the pseudonym of gastronomic days, with leftovers and a little stylized in the menus of many restaurants.
Although the tradition is still alive, in many houses some rural splendor has been lost and with it a certain sense of the domestic world, which has waned. Before, tasks were shared between men and women. The man was the one who killed, peeled, disentangled, dismembered; the women, on the other hand, collected the pig's blood and cleaned their guts to make blood sausages, chopped onions, handled the choricera machine ...
It was hard work that lasted one or several days and that predisposed everyone, men, women and children, to taste the marinade, the liver soup, the pregnant boronas, chorizos, chueltas and steaks from that moment . With the meats to good collection came the popular talent for take full advantage of the pig and not leave anything to chance, preparing dozens of derivatives and traditional dishes, all of taste contrasted by historical experience and rural roots: as the aforementioned liver soup, Don adobo, rice or potatoes with ribs, blood sausages, the pregnant boronas exquisite to the eye and the palate, hams, lacones, sausages, gochu's hands, tongue, corns, loin, etc..
The universe of names to call the parts of the gochu is inifinito for two reasons: for the number of distinctive parts of its organism, and for the neat semantics of the different Asturian regions, which use different names to call the same product, and that make the synonymy and polysemy so rich to talk about the pig as to eat it.
It is also an almost semantic whim to select here a handful of municipalities with a tradition of San Martín, since all the territory professes it. But some more than others have managed to place even higher this gastronomic god. In the town of Noreña they have put it on a pedestal, there is one of the only sculptures dedicated to this animal. The monument to «gochu», that's the name of the work, wants to put the accent on the ies and give to Caesar what is of Caesar. Not in vain Noreña owes more than anyone else to the pig, its famous meat products throughout the north of the peninsula, nourish a large part of this market with its large San Martines.
They also stand out the gastronomic festivals in this council of the center of Asturias, with the festival of corns in December, and those of picadillo and sabadiego in the late month of April.
Other places famous for their gastronomic days are Case, Moreda (Aller), Onís, Bimenes, La Arquera (Salas), all celebrate in December; Amieva, in February; Riosa with its days of calluses in April, and a long etcetera.
Take bread and get wet.Text: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com