Friday, February 18, 2011

Food Trend

This is Mangalitsa.

Eddie Huang in Slate writes about food trends, using Mangalitsa pork as an example:

From skate to pork belly to razor clams, there's always something that's priced reasonably, previously ignored, and able to fill a role on a menu. That's where these things start. Your purveyor comes to you with a new product, say, Mangalitsa pork, and asks you to try it. It was almost extinct in Hungary as a lard animal but now they want you to experiment with it. There's an introductory rate. The pig really isn't good for much but lard, yet you can charge a premium for the experience and novelty. Call it "Kobe pork!" While the purveyor is showing it to you, he's showing it to five other chefs in your neighborhood: Boom. We have a trend.

The Mangalitsa isn't a bad product. It's interesting. I'd like to spend some time with it, slowly integrate it, and figure out how to deliver it at a fair, sustainable price so it isn't here today, gone tomorrow on my menu. Am I selling a trend or selling a good dish? By the time you cycle through those thoughts, Mangalitsa prices go up for a season, then they level out. But by the time it levels out, the eating public is bored. They just paid $30+ for a Mangalitsa pork experience that doesn't really outdo your average Berkshire, which is known, widely available, quality pork. But the bigger issue is that chefs are coming up with specials and pushing trends before truly understanding the product, because they don't have to. The novelty sells itself.
I completely disagree with this characterization.

To start, Mangalitsa wasn't previously priced reasonably, being ignored, etc. It is available at all in the USA because I and others brought it to the US market and marketed it.

Mangalitsa pigs are great for things other than lard. They make great cured products, like ham, bacon, guanciale, capicola, etc. Does Eddie Huang really think Mangalitsa pigs are just good for lard? That's hard to believe.

Mangalitsa and Berkshire are very different. Mangalitsa is much more marbled. It is also much more juicy, red and flavorful. It is hard for me to imagine a competent chef buying Mangalitsa and not being able to do better than if he bought some Berkshire pork.

Just look at the loin up top. That's from a Mangalitsa pig. Berkshire pigs can't produce loins like that. That loin tasted great. You could eat a million Berkshire loins and they'd never taste that good.

1 comment:

eddie said...

Hi Heath, I did mention the loin in my original post: "With pork, the problem has never been marbling. With the loin, YES, the Mangalitsa has an advantage there, but in terms of the rest of the animal, especially belly or butt, I doubt the berkshire lacks marbling."

it is still on my blog unchanged. mangalitsa is fattier, my article is less about mangalitsa and more about trends.