Michael R. Boone // Plano, TX

You can find “Inheritance” and four other memoirs on “Pork and Identity” in the ‘Meat Up’ section of issue 17 of Meatpaper.

I remember very clearly the day I discovered I had an inheritance. I was far from home, and had volunteered to help with a dinner party. I arrived just as preparations for the meal were getting under way and a crisis was developing.

In a group of young graduate students, these sorts of occasions always lead to some confusion. Who will bring the wine? Will there be dessert? Are there enough plates for everyone?

At this particular meal, there was no one scheduled to prepare the main dish. The hostess had purchased half a dozen pork tenderloins with the idea that something would be done to make them edible, but there was no one yet on hand to make the dream a reality.

When asked, I was happy to help, but my vague acknowledgment of cooking experience left some uncertainty among the others. I abandoned false modesty: “trust me,” I told them, “pork is all I know.”

I was raised in the deep South, and where I come from, food is the cultural touchstone. Pork remains the medium in which I best express myself. Whether a whole hog, chops, or (as in this case) at a more refined affair, the other white meat is what I know best precisely because my forefathers knew it before me.

Given the run of the kitchen, I set to work with only a pair of large ovens, a few roasting pans, and some salt and pepper. It was unbearably hot in the kitchen, and as sweat leaked through my shirt and slacks, I must have looked like an overworked smith bending over his bellows, but the results were a hit: a juicy and tender meal shared with many good friends. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was reminded that the simple act of sharing a gift is a powerful thing.

In the preparation and sharing of food, we are placed within a story that we have not authored alone. We are bearers of a gift not our own, and when we share it freely, we invite others to partake in our own graceful inheritance.

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