Bruce Aidells vs. James Villas: Pork vs. Pig, A Cookbook War

Bruce Aidells. James Villas. One is the king of sausage. The latter is a Southern cooking guru, which by default makes him a bona fide bacon expert. Aidells has a six-years-strong cookbook, the Complete Book of Pork, that should already be on your shelf. Villas has just released a pull-apart rib contender simply dubbed Pig. Do we taste a cookbook face-off?

Were one to read the subtitles of each, it would be clear these books are very different despite their apparent equal hog bias. Complete Book of Pork is "A Guide to Buying, Storing and Cooking with the World's Favorite Meat." Pig is the "King of the Southern Table." Which book you'll prefer depends entirely on your global vs. south of the Mason-Dixon line dinner table disputes.

For instance, Villas has no qualms about tossing in the occasional canned and bottled vegetables as appropriate, such as cream of mushroom soup and pimentos in an open-face pig and pimento burger.

Or using words like "chilled or lukewarm meat," as any good Southern picnic-er packing a chilled poached pork butt is wont to do. Aidells, on the other hand, is more inclined to offer the occasional info-box on making your own tamarind paste for his Burmese-style curried pork. Or explaining exactly why you might want to use a cataplana (a Portuguese copper cooking vessel) to cook those Portuguese-style clams with spicy sausage... and why a casserole or soup pot will do just fine if you don't happen to have one.

On the recipe naming front, Villas is drawn to Southern legacies, as evident by his braised pork chops with port gravy (from Betty Jane), pork chops and cornbread casserole (Leah's), and that roast pork with sausage-cornbread stuffing (Jeanne). Aidells' tends to be drawn more to regions and styles of cooking, as his Thai seafood and pork dumplings, Spanish pork tenderloin roulade and Filipino pork adobo attest.

And so, which does Squid Ink prefer? That's sort of like asking whether we like our bacon chewy or crispy. It all comes down to the pork. Or was it pig?


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