Click to enlargePeter Kaminsky --
Chef, food critic
and author
of "Pig Perfect"

Peter Kaminsky has tackled many roles in life, among them, journalist, cookbook author, television specials producer, New York Times columnist and "hamthropologist." His book, "Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them," is all about his quests for all things porcine. The book was released in May 2005 and included a chapter entitled "The Hammaker's Daughter" — Newsom's Aged Hams own Nancy Newsom Mahaffey.

A food critic and formerly New York Magazine's "Underground Gourmet," Kaminsky has written award-winning articles appearing in the New York Times, Food & Wine, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and more.

Kaminsky traveled the country for book signings and appeareances during his promotion of "Pig Perfect." One of those signings notes the D.C. Foodies website in a May 23, 2005 posting was held June 4 at Michel Richard's Citronelle. Along with the book signing, Citronelle hosted a luncheon featuring all things pork: Amuse Bouche of Pied de Cochon Salami ... Tasting of Artisanal Ham ... Jambon Persille Moulded in Aspic ... Frisee Lardons with Eggs. The tasting of artisanal ham included a sampling of Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Ham shipped from our store in Princeton.

Kaminsky's Pig Perfect was widely reviewed in publications across the country. Here is what some of the reviewers had to say ...

The New Yorker: The Critics: Briefly Noted...Issue of 2005-09-05, Posted 2005-08-29................ ...Pig Perfect, by Peter Kaminsky (Hyperion; $22). In this memoirish account of pork production and consumption, the self-described “hamthropologist” Peter Kaminsky searches for the perfect swine. Cherishing memories of his grandma’s boiled ham, Kaminsky travels extensively, from the foothills of the Pyrenees to rural Missouri. He examines pigs from historical, religious, and ecological viewpoints, veering into impassioned, if rudimentary, discussions of their role in everything from sustainable agriculture to evolution. The characters he encounters along the way, among them a dark-haired Kentucky beauty (Newsom's own Nancy Mahaffey) who holds the secret to pork mold and a champion pig-cutter from Spain, are the book’s heroes. Kaminsky writes with the authority of an obsessive and a humor that occasionally strays into winsomeness; in his acknowledgments, he thanks “all the pigs who gave their last full measure in the service of gastronomy.”

Heritage Foods USA/Heritage Press...Food for Thought wrote ...PIG PERFECT is the story of one man's passionate grail-quest and grill-quest for delicious pork and sublime ham. Cookbook author, naturalist and lifelong "hamthropologist," Peter Kaminsky follows his tastebuds from a Kentucky general store (Newsom's), to a farmhouse in Burgundy, to a barbecue stand in Greenville, North Carolina, where the highway crews line up for pulled pork until "there ain't no more." Kaminsky's pork pilgrimage leads him from an ancient village in Andalucia to a desert island off the Georgia coast and the last descendents of the pigs that Columbus brought to the Americas. When he finds his perfect pigs, farmer friends and four star chefs join in an experiment to reclaim "the lost taste of pork." As with any quest, it is the stops along the way, the fabulous meals and the people that he encounters that make this journey so enjoyable. Meet the winningest barbecue chef in America and the retired Marine colonel who took on the grim hog factories, and the archeologist whose work at the Great Pyramid of Menkaure may have unlocked the mysterious origins of the pork taboo. For anyone interested in the pleasures of food and the rich lore of pigs, this journey through such wideranging topics as the last great country hams, the Dr. Seuss of Renaissance Spain, and the alchemy of flavour offers Kaminsky's trademark blend of wit, unforgettable characters, and the pursuit of pleasure. It is as irresistible as the aroma of bacon on the griddle. Peter Kaminsky is the author of numerous books, including The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass and The Elements of Taste. Formerly New York Magazine's "Underground Gourmet," his Outdoors column runs regularly in the New York Times. His work has appeared frequently in Food & Wine, Field & Stream and he was Managing Editor at National Lampoon. He lives in Brooklyn.

Jessica's Biscuit cook book sales.............. ...What Bill Bryson did for trees and walking shoes and Mark Kurlansky did for cod, Peter Kaminsky now does for pork in Pig Perfect 'I love ham and I love this book.' —Annie Dillard do you crave a juicy pork chop? An old-time country ham? Or maybe some Southern-style barbecue? Then you'll want to join Peter Kaminsky on his pilgrimage in search of the perfect pig. Part travelogue, part cookbook, part naturalist's encounter, and part love letter, Kaminsky's book takes us from Kentucky, Burgundy and Madrid to the Yucatn and back to Brooklyn to tell the tale of the pig. From the wondrous techniques of tailgate chefs to Mayan home cooking, competitive barbecuing, and the ancient rite of the pig killing that has bound communities together over the centuries, Pig Perfect brings together an oddball pork-loving band of chefs, farmers and food lovers and offers a tasty history of the oft underappreciated pig.

The Alabama Booksmith wrote to announce a May 25, 2005 signing.................. ...In Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, a sprawling love letter to hogdom, "hamthropologist" and food and fly fishing writer Kaminsky takes readers to France and Spain as well as to such American cities as Memphis, Louisville and Des Moines to visit a broad variety of pork-related venues. He waxes ecstatic about long-aged country ham and laments today's leaner, less flavorful meat. He seeks out a pig slaughter, considers why pork is taboo to Jews and Muslims, and excoriates the brutality and environmental damage wreaked by hog factories. Kaminsky (The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass) celebrates family farmers who give their pigs freedom in the field, offer them natural foods and produce a far better pork. The author's enthusiasm is infectious, and the narrative is generously embellished with dozens of facts about pigs (such as the staggering statistic that about 350,000 U.S. hogs are slaughtered every week). Nine recipes, ranging from Country Ham Braised in Cider and Molasses to Emile and Rachel's Roast Loin of Pork with Greens and Cantaloupe, are scattered throughout to honor the oinker itself.

This man knows his pig.... Posted by Leslie Kelly on Bar-b-q blog with leslie kelly and dave darnell.................. Peter Kaminsky wrote "Pig Perfect", the quest for the holy grail of pork... he was passing through Memphis on his "Hamthropology" tour and taught me a thing or two over a divine swine sandwich at Payne's on Lamar. He showed me slides of a pig killing in Spain — yes, while we ate barbecue!! — and told me about his favorite pig, a once feral breed from Ossabaw Island that gets its rich, nutty flavor from a diet of acorns. ... Beyond eating ertheral ham, Kaminsky is convinced that he has seen the future in food and it's all about sustainablity... think global and eat local...

Road Reads by Jerry V. Haines, The Washington Post Company............... "Pig Perfect" by Peter Kaminsky, Sunday, October 23, 2005................. TARGET AUDIENCE: People who saw "Babe" and thought of sandwiches. ........"When taste is so full, so nuanced, so layered, it can best be compared to a symphony, its aftertastes like a final grand chord. . . . " Praise for a legendary wine? No, ham. Specifically, Spanish Iberico ham, although the search for the perfect pig leads also to France, Mexico and Ossabaw Island, near Savannah, Ga. Outdoors and food writer Kaminsky speaks of ham in terms usually reserved for great wines and cheeses. And appropriately so, for together they form a trinity of the "preciously rotten" — things actually improved by deterioration. But the process begins with the careful breeding and feeding of the pigs, then attention to their growth and, inevitably, to their slaughter. Kaminsky's articulate text is just as much about pig farmers and pork producers as it is about the pigs themselves. But he also gives us a brief history of pigkind, some conjecture on the origins of religious restrictions on pork and blistering commentary on factory farming. Oh, and recipes.

And, just a bit more about the author in excerpts from an article posted in the Princeton Alumni Weekly The December 19, 2001 issue: Food and Fishing —Writer Peter Kaminsky '69 obsesses on both ...By J.I. Merritt '66

Peter Kaminsky '69 has long obsessed on food and fishing — the first as far back as he can remember, the second since an outing on a party boat in the 1970s.

"I didn't grow up fishing," says Kaminsky, a writer and TV producer. "I was working at National Lampoon at the time — an insane and crazy and hyper place. I had to get away and went on vacation to the Florida Keys, where I saw this sign on the dock saying 'Fish all day for $10' and decided to try it. So I went out and caught a fish and said to myself, "This is what I was born to do."

Readers of the sports section of the New York Times are familiar with his pieces about fishing in the metropolitan area, and readers of New York Magazine know him for the "Underground Gourmet" column he wrote for years. (In the fall of 2001, Kaminsky explored the pleasures of angling and eating in two booksl: The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass (Hyperion) and The Elements of Taste (Little, Brown).

The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass describes a month Kaminsky spent fly fishing on eastern Long Island for striped bass during their fall coastal migration. The run attracts legions of anglers and supports a cottage industry of fishing guides whose culture and personalities he portrays in affectionate detail. The title derives from an epiphany he had one evening. Kaminsky and a guide were in a boat just beyond the surf and watched a full moon "as orange as a fat, ripe pumpkin" rise in the east. As if on cue, the water around them erupted in a frenzied cauldron of striped bass feeding on baitfish.

The Elements of Taste, which Kaminsky coauthored with four-star chef Gray Kunz, is a lavishly photographed cook book that takes a novel approach to its subject. Kaminsky and Kunz threw out most of the standard terms for taste and came up with a new vocabulary. In their lexicon some tastes "push" — examples are "salty," "sweet" and "picante" (like the spicy heat of chili pepper). Others either "pull" — these include "tangy," "spiced aromatic" and "funky" (cabbage, aged meats and pungent cheeses) or "punctuate" — "sharp/bitter." ........

In Kaminsky's mind, fishing and food, and writing about the two, are linked in many ways. Most obviously, he says, "The connection goes back 100,000 years. We like fishing, I think, because it's tied to one of our basic drives, to find food. I began writing about fishing before I did about food. Reading Hemingway, I noticed that if he put a slice of lemon in a four-page scene it seemed to bring everything else into focus. So I began to include a little bit of food in my fishing stories. ....

Kaminsky grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. At Princeton he majored in history and was president of the student government.

After graduating, he drove a cab in New York for a year ("I put my Princeton degree to work right away"), studied anthropology at NYU, and drifted into journalism, writing first for Rolling Stone and then for National Lampoon, where he was briefly managing editor.

Kaminsky's father wrote comedy for Jackie Gleason, a relationship that gave his son an entre into show business. He also has a younger brother who was producing TV comedy shows, and he did some writing for him. Eventually Kaminsky began producing on his own — his projects have included specials for Spy and People magazines and a 20th-anniversary celebration of Woodstock. He is the creator and producer of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize celebration, which in recent years has honored Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg...

"Working for TV is good — it pays a lot better than journalism and keeps my pension fund up," says Kaminsky, "but I've never enjoyed it as much as writing about fishing for the Times at $1.50 a word."

(In the photo are author Peter Kaminsky and the hammaker's daughter Nancy Newsom Mahaffey at the 5th World Congress of Dry Cured Hams in Aracena, Spain)

See Ham Lady News for the Hammaker's DaughterKaminsky’s book Pig Perfect contains a chapter about Nancy Newsom Mahaffey. See the Ham Lady News section to read the chapter.