Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trying to Pig Out

I enjoy a good snack. Most of the time, I limit my snacks to a couple of nice salty chips or a bit of ice cream late at night. During the day, I'm more likely to grab a couple of nuts, almonds or pistachios are my go-to treat. 

While we were in the UK, we found ourselves on a quest for candy and snacks.

The kids had been introduced to English candies when they were growing up. The mother of one of their friends was English and she would take her children back to the UK every year or so. When they would return home, they always brought an ample supply of their favorite candies to share with friends.

The kids had asked for us to bring back a couple of specific candies, especially something called “Refreshers.”

I decided, in my usual casual style, to do a bit of research on English snacks and candies. Armed with what I learned watching Youtube reaction videos, I assembled a list of must-try items. Refreshers were at the top of the list.

 What seemed to be an easy task quickly became something of an obsession. Everywhere we went we would search the candy isles for the elusive treat. When we asked at the counter, no one seem to have ever heard of them.

Helpful clerks offered up all kinds of odd replacements, including one who tried to sell me an automotive air freshener.

A small sample of the treats we came home with
Even though we couldn’t find the Refreshers, we did find almost everything else on the list. At one fuel stop, I spied a bag of pork scratchings.

I hate to admit it, but I was a fan of pork rinds way before they became the darling of the keto world. In the 1980’s I was introduced to the crispy, salty, smoky snack by some of my Southern comrades-in-arms while serving in the US Army.

Pork rinds and Pepsi cola became my go to snack whenever I was faced with the painfully tedious task known as CQ or “Charge of Quarters.”

CQ duty would begin at the end of the normal workday. The job was to answer phones when the HQ staff had gone home, and to track significant events over night. The big excitement of the night would be to walk the company area for security checks.

At the time there were no smart phones, no DVD players, and the building didn’t have that new service – cable tv. My boss did have a beta videotape player, but he was way ahead of his time.

It’s difficult to describe the kind of soul-crushing boredom that infects the mind of someone on CQ duty. Service members, police officers and night watchmen have most likely experienced the sleep deprived monotony that comes in the early morning hours.

The result of this extreme boredom is that everything is enhanced. People seem more interesting, stupid jokes are hilarious, and food tastes much better. Which is why, on one infamous tour of duty, I devoured an entire bag of hot-and-spicy pork rinds and a 12-pack of Pepsi.

The day-after result of my overnight culinary adventure was, let’s say, less than ideal.

But I still love the deep-fried bits of pig skin. Which is why I picked up a bag of Mr. Porky’s Finest Quality Pork Scratchings for the Connoisseur.

After all, if I like the common American pork rind, I should love the finest quality of Mr. Porky’s offerings. In fact, I’m almost certain that the Queen herself enjoys the savory delicacy.

I didn’t open the bag right away, I decided to wait until I returned home so I could share my discovery with two of my friends and co-workers. Dave, being from the South and Jason a US Navy vet, would surely appreciate the goodness that are British pork scratchings.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the Holiday work schedule had us on different shifts and we didn’t have the chance to all sit down and dine together.

So, the bag sat in my desk for a couple of weeks until one day I was craving a snack and thought about the wonderful delight that was just waiting to be devoured.

On opening the bag, the first thing that hit me was the smell. It was much more pungent than I expected. Undeterred, I glanced into the bag. I noticed that the scratchings didn’t exactly look like pork rinds. In fact, a couple of pieces looked a bit sketchy.

I picked one up and started to take a bite.

What I expected was the salty, smoky, crunchy goodness that I had come to expect from pig skin that has been boiled, rendered, chilled, then deep fried to an air-puffed porky treat.

What happened was, as I began to bite down, my upper teeth encountered a solid, almost impenetrable steel surface of pork skin. At the same time, my lower teeth entered the soft mass of un-rendered fat on the other side of the piece.

So instead of a satisfying crunch, I got a mouth full of pork shards and fat. I will admit, I had to spit it out.

Don’t get me wrong, from what I hear, if you drink enough beer, they’re supposed to be very good. I’m not rushing to find out.

Oh yeah, about the Refreshers candies, when we got back to the US we ordered a case online.

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