Monday, March 09, 2009

Clean Meat Never Fattened A Pig

The Cave Hill, Belfast

I used to wonder what the saying 'clean meat never fattened a pig' meant and, to this day, I'm still not sure. It was often said in our house if, for instance, one of the wee ones dropped their jam sandwich (alternatively 'jam piece') and picked it up again for the scoffing thereof. With seven children in the house, it wasn't just that food couldn't, shouldn't be wasted, it was also a matter of us living not that handy to the shops.

Another one of the parents favourites when one of us (never me) was tardy about redding the plate was, 'think of the poor starving children in Africa.' As I grew older and hungrier the cleaning of the younger sibling's plates was never a problem. The new mantra was, "Ate your dinner quick before Nelly has it off you!" Daddy would often remark of my appetite, "Sure thon Nelly one would ate her way through the Cave Hill if it was made of apple tart," or whatever the plat du jour happened to be.

There was rarely a meal time passed in our house without a glass of milk or cup of tea spilled all over the table. Jerry, who often helped Daddy on the farm, would remark, "Matty, ye'd need some class of a drain and spoutings on this table."

But still I never worked out what 'clean meat never fattened a pig,' meant. I used to think that pigs wouldn't thrive unless you introduced some form of dirt into their food. When I was very young I'd watch the Hannas mix up the pig swill using their forearms to stir the feed and I'd think this was how they introduced the dirt. I also thought it wasn't very effective because the Hannas were very clean people and Mrs Hanna kept a spotless house. All the men were required to remove their work boots before crossing the threshold. This was a far cry from the housekeeping standards set in our house. Like Bert today, my father paid little heed to the scatterings of mud, straw, silage and worse that fell from his clothing and boots.

But it seems that he had the right idea after all. Because when I googled 'clean meat...' I discovered that some scientists are saying that exposure to dung is actually very good for the health because it strengthens the immune system and that keeping too clean a house can lead to an increase in the incidence of childhood asthma and allergies.

Did I ever mention that my three lovely daughters aged 34, 30 and 26 are as healthy as trouts and always have been?


Grannymar said...

Oh dear! Elly's childhood asthma must be down to....

I think I'll blame her father, he had an affair with the duster. lol

Nelly said...

If only you'd known that cow dung was the cure.

Sweary said...

My mam used to call it "clean dirt".

Provided it wasn't rolled in broken glass, we were told to eat whatever fell on the floor. I still have the disturbing habit to this day of picking up whatever rolls off the chopping board and popping it in my mouth.

I've been ostracised from society, but at least I don't have asthma.

Ronni said...

Ha! I knew there had to be a reason why my kids don't have allergies!

Cuidado said...

My mother said you had to eat a peck of dirt before you died. From a long time lurker.

evilganome said...

I myself have never trusted people with an unhealthy attachment to spotless homes. On the other hand, my own dwelling it a bit too like a leopard these days.

But it all makes sense now that my brothers and I were all such healthy children.

Nelly said...

One of my favourite sayings is, "You'll never remember the day you stayed at home to clean the house."

Paddy Mac said...

The actual saying is "lean meat never fattened a pig", which should make perfect sense should you mull it over. (Although one could argue that it was perhaps not worthy of a blog entry?)