CHAPTER 17: U MAIALINU, PANELA

It’s not every morning that you get to watch a city-dwelling pig, the size of twin linebackers living in an sixth-floor apartment in Trastevere, a neighborhood dating back to Rome.

That’s the power of Italian TV from RAI Internazionale, available to us Calabresi here in southern California. No, I’m not dreaming and it’s too early for drinking Grappa. Instead, I sip my no-sugar Monster as I would an espresso in Italy.

To my shock, Ada Raspagliosi, an attractive young woman is showing off her pet pig, Panela, on a celebrated morning show. Ada is singing the praises of Panela, who has replaced the traditional dog or cat or boyfriend in Ada’s life. Panela and Ada cohabitate an apartment in Trastevere where rents aren’t cheap.

The pig has the run of the house, except at night time when Panela retires to her boudoir, a caged crib-like structure furnished with wall-to-wall green artificial turf and a pink cushion, big enough to provide comfort for a 500-pound pig. I predict the pink cushion will soon be replaced by a Sleep Number bed when Ada discovers the magic that the bed has brought us Calabresi in America. The only issue of concern: choosing the right number for Panela. Will she prefer a lower number or the firmer mattress?

When out of the apartment, Panela hikes around town on a leash. Panela is especially fond of the Via Condotti, the Rodeo Drive of Rome. After all, the beautiful shoes, boots, and hand bags are made from cowhide. When motorized transportation is necessary, Panela is assisted into the backseat of the luxury mid-size Italian car by sympathetic passersby. Whether Panela is belted for safety, the owner didn’t say. Panela had better never come to California where “click it or ticket” is the norm.

Back at home, Panela has finicky tastes; she doesn’t eat potatoes or apples or prosciutto, which angers us Calabresi Californians. Porca miseria! Why can’t this mamaluke eat like the rest of us?

When Ada is compelled to go to work, Ada’s nonna babysits and Panela obeys grandma. Panela naturally bathes often in Ada’s bathtub where Ada provides a bubble bath. Suds accidentally stream from Panela’s snout causing some discomfort as I witness this incredible scene. Madonna! Where’s PETA when you need them!

Ada originally came from Emilia-Romagna, the region known for prosciutto, but you can tell that she has no plans to turn Panela into pancetta (bacon) or prosciutto di Parma. The show’s host is petting Panela and complimenting her: Complimenti! says the host (I guess for not misbehaving on stage).

If the Saccos in Calabria are watching the same morning show 5,000 miles from us Calabresi Californians, I bet they’re licking their chops (no pun intended). Five hundred pounds of prosciutto, pancetta, costolette, soppressata, cappacola, and other goodies.

Panela’s Calabrese ancestors didn’t have it quite so good. A hundred years ago, pigs did indeed live indoors or under the house but senza leashes, bubble baths, special carpeting or dispensation from the butcher’s knife.

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About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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