Pigs stand alone in this wide universe as the only wondrous creators with the unparalleled ability to turn vegetables into bacon. They're also smart, playful and pair ridiculously well with apples.
We're practically cousins, too. As animal geneticist Lawrence Schook put it in a 2005 issue of the trade magazine National Hog Farmer: "We took the human genome, cut it into 173 puzzle pieces and rearranged it to make a pig. Everything matches up perfectly."
Maybe that helps dip into your love of the divine swine, or just grosses you out, but either way I think poet Kevin Young gets closest to explaining it in his poem "Ode to Pork": "I know you're the blues because loving you may kill me — but still you rock me down slow as hamhocks on the stove," he writes. "Anyway you come fried, cued, burnt to within one inch of your life I love."
This is something 26-year-old Andres Velez could appreciate, and you know it because he put his mouth where his money is and fired up the Piglatin Truck, a 1995 Chevy turned burnt-red Temple of Trotters now resting most days at downtown's outdoor food court, Curbside Cuisine.
And while the ex-Army, New Jersey native isn't actually cooking pigs' feet, he's living high all over the rest of the hog: pork-belly poutine, Portuguese sausages with quail eggs, and sachi pappas (fried hot-dogs) have all been handed from his window. Hopefully coming down the pike are experimentations with pig ears, chitterlings, pork cheeks and dishes like Spam musubi, a sushi-like snack à la Hawaii.
"It's versatile, you know? You can do anything with it," says Velez, a graduate of Pikes Peak Community College's culinary program. "You can make it taste like something that would go well with fish, or go well with beef. You can make it fruity, you can make it sour; you can do anything with any cut. It's just versatile."
For the Island Tacos ($6) he braises the pork butt in water, sofrito and mango and pineapple juices. The shreds line black-blue, house-fried tortilla shells along with cabbage, Cotija cheese and lime, creating a soft crunch that's instantly comforting. They smell almost like popcorn, too.
Mounds of pork found in the impressive kimchi sliders ($7.50) see sesame-seed oil, soy sauce, onions, pear juice, garlic, and green onions before morphing into the thick, saucy piles paired with spicy mayonnaise, and kimchi made by his mother-in-law. The funky cabbage blasts you in the face as soon as you open the compostable to-go box, and more than acquits itself between the chewy pretzel rolls.
The rotating special our week was Kalua pork ($7.50), a pile of really moist shreds next to a banana leaf underneath a square bit of coconut rice juiced with soy sauce. On the side, looking like finger-length logs: two fried plantains, their sugars gently caramelized.
What else? The Piggy Grilled Cheese ($5.75) is such a blast of butter, melting cheddar, grilled onions and fat slices of bacon that the layer of spinach looks like it got lost on the wrong sandwich. (You can barely taste it underneath all that power, anyway.) The fried risotto ($3) and Cuban balls ($4) are textural bliss, with their hot panko crusts and steaming insides; but, regarding the latter, the Cuban chili ostensibly stuffed inside the mashed-potato guts was but a brown smear. Still fun, though, just like a mobile hog heaven.