The pig population of Paris peaked last week. One reason for this was the Salon de l’Agriculture, the annual farm and food fair that turns half of the pavilions at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center into a gigantic barn, teeming with thousands of cows, sheep, goats, horses and, of course, pigs, and the other half into a gigantic food court teeming with thousands of fairgoers making pigs of themselves.
Including me: it is a matter of public record (see my reports on this event from 2012 and 2011) that I love the Salon, primarily for its high concentration of superb, hard-to-find products from the four essential food groups: foie gras, wine, cold cuts, odiferous cheese and microbrewery beer.
Oops — that’s one too many groups. But it’s hard to count in the midst of a dense, noisy crowd of farm fans who have had one too many. Samples from group five, that is.
I made the mistake of going to the Salon’s nocturne this year — the night it closes at 11 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. Being there after dinner exacerbated one of the less attractive aspects of the fair, which has to do with how the beverage makers market their wares.
Most of the wine sellers only serve tiny tastes, for free, with the expectation that the people they offer it to will order by the case, but the beer barrelers pump the stuff out by the glass at promotional prices, typically a couple of euros a head, so to speak.
This tends to encourage the sucking of suds. On previous visits to this event, I had noticed that at any given moment, even at 10 in the morning, it was not difficult to find people who had already maxed out their microbrew capacity.
But last Friday evening, by about 9 p.m. it was difficult to find anyone who did not already have a snootful. Or rather a snoutful. The livestock exhibits may have been an animal barn, but the food section was Animal House.
By 9:30 I had had enough of wondering which drunk would be the next to stumble, spill or spew in my direction and decided that it was time to go see a man about a hog.
There was one particular exhibitor I was yearning to find. An extraordinary man. A man who has reached unprecedented heights in his field. A man who is the living embodiment of the timeless values of dedication, creativity and perseverance, whose legacy will stand for generations as the gold standard in his chosen discipline.
And that, of course, is the discipline of… Wait — perhaps the best introduction can be found in this report from BBC News. (Please watch the video before reading on.)
Yes, readers, meet Noël Jamet, French Grand Champion Pig Imitator, the man who transformed the Salon’s annual hog-calling contest into a mudpit marathon, with costumed competitions in four grueling events: The Fleeing Piglet, The Boar in Rut, The Suckling Sow and, Monsieur Jamet’s specialty, The Dying Pig, or “Kicking the Lard Bucket.”
Youthful uncertainty, sexual awakening, the maternal instinct, the inevitable passage to that great sty in the sky… It’s a brilliant, lyrical metaphor for life itself!
Well, okay, it’s a pretty good metaphor for life. Well, let’s just say it’s a kind of a metaphor for something or other. If I find out what, I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, I couldn’t find Mr. Jamet that night (even pig imitators are smart enough to get out of the feedlot when the real rooting and rutting begins), which is too bad, because after seeing that BBC report I had a couple of questions for him:
1) Parties and weddings? The former I kind of understand, having been to a few parties where a porcine impersonator would have been a welcome distraction, and even more where he would have gone entirely unnoticed, but weddings? Please tell me he’s not the ring bearer. What other kinds of events does he do? Baby showers? First communions?
2) The circuit? You mean there’s sufficient demand for this type of, ahh, “performance” that pig imitators barnstorm around the country like political candidates, stock car racers and strippers? Or is that all one circuit?
And, most importantly:
3) His fifth national title? And I didn’t know about this until now? Readers, please accept my deep-felt apology for having not brought this to your attention years ago. I have been guilty of slop journalism.
Speaking of deep feels and guilt, old “Jambon” Jamet was not the only squealer making headlines in France last week. On Thursday the daily newspaper Libération published a story containing this sentence:
“In its entire history, has the normally urbane 17th court ever heard so many references to ’pig’ and ’swine’?”
The occasion was a civil suit over a book entitled Belle et Bête, which could be translated either as “Beauty and Beast,” as in the fairy tale title but with a “the” missing, or as “Beautiful and Stupid,” as in comely but with a screw missing. But, in this case, not missing a… Oh never mind — you’ll see what I mean:
The author is an Argentine-born lawyer named Marcela Iacub, and the book is a “kiss and tell” tale about her eight-month relationship with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chairman of the International Monetary Fund and current chairman of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn Sex Scandal Generating Plant. I haven’t read it, but from what I have been led to understand about DSK’s personal life, I doubt that there was much actual kissing to tell about.
In any case, the old boar was suing for invasion of the glare-faded, dog-eared remnants of his privacy — and won! Sort of: he didn’t succeed in blocking the book’s release, but he was awarded €75,000 in damages.
When I read the news, I could hardly contain my indignation. It’s an outrage! A travesty! An abomination! Think of it: Strauss-Kahn gets €75,000 whereas Noël Jamet gets nothing. A notorious debaucher wins the better part of a hundred thou while France’s five-time national champion in the subtle art of fakin’ bacon wins nothing more than a bunch of flimsy-looking trophies and bragging rights.
Oh, and snorting rights. But anyway, mark my words: there’s no justice in this country!
Speaking of lacks of judgment, if DSK can get €75,000 for an attack on his private life, why can’t I? I figure that I have more privacy but, arguably, less of a life, so it should balance out.
Seventy-five grand is a lotta chitlins. All I need now is a mistress with liability insurance, no shame and a publishing contract. Simple, right? And think of all the beer I could buy at next year’s Salon de l’Agriculture!
Reader Barney Kirchhoff writes: “It may be true that there’s a sucker born every minute, but not everyone gets a book out of it by exploring DSK’s southern hemisphere.”
An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.