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Davis, California

Monday, October 25, 2021

UC Davis students bring home the bacon

Some students like their meat well done and tough. Others prefer theirs rare and almost breathing. Then there are those select few that want their meat slow-cooked on a homemade spit over wood they cut themselves.

The founders of the Club of Wilbur are two such individuals.

UC Davis students Adam Thongsovat and Will Klein first began the club, called the Club of Wilbur, in fall quarter of 2009. So what does the club do exactly? The group’s activities are straightforward enough. Members roast and eat a “Wilbur”- or any pig they deem worthy.

“It’s really just for fun,” said Thongsovat, a junior history major and ASUCD senator. “We just bring people together. And honestly, the meat is the best pork I’ve ever had.”

Klein, a junior nature and culture major, said the inspiration for the club came to them easily.

“We were just grilling something small and got bored,” Klein said.

Klein and Thongsovat’s desire for bigger and better animals led to the two constructing their own hog-roasting pit. Their design was based off equipment Klein had used last summer while working at a nature camp in West Virginia. The two pooled their money and began purchasing materials for their project.

For those unfamiliar with the hog-roasting process, a pit and spit are two major components. A pit is a dug out area to burn coal in, while a spit supports the hog’s weight as it roasts. The spit runs through the pig and is turned throughout the roast to result in an evenly cooked swine.

The pit, constructed in Thongsovat’s backyard, began with a hole for the pit. Chunks of cement were used to border the pit; they purchased metal piping for a spit and two pieces of plywood on either side of the pit.

“We were lucky because my neighbor was tearing out her driveway,” Thongsovat said. “We were able to use her cement.”

After the pit was created, the next step was to purchase a pig. Thongsovat and Klein picked up their first hog from Mad Butcher Meat Co. in Sacramento. They nicknamed their purchase Wilbur after the pig character from the book, Charlotte’s Web.

“It was 85 pounds post slaughter and gutted,” Thongsovat said.

He said their homemade spit could only support about that much weight.

The club roasted its first Wilbur in November, and fed a crowd of about 40 people. However, upon inviting people to the event, Klein and Thongsovat encountered disbelief.

“A lot of people thought we were joking last time,” Thongsovat said. “They thought it was a theme party or that we were serving pulled-pork sandwiches.”

The guests that did attend were greeted by the hog roasting on the spit. Klein wore jean overalls in honor of the event.

When it came to prepping the pig, Klein and Thongsovat said it does not take much to make tasty pork.

“You really don’t have to put anything on it to make it taste good if you pick a good pig,” Klein said.

However, the pig was coated in olive oil prior to roasting to prevent it from drying out. Later on in the roasting process, the two added flavor injections by syringe.

“We made a concoction of marinade,” Klein said. “You inject it into the meat with a basting needle.”

The entire roasting took around eight to 10 hours to fully cook.

Joe Chatham, a senior international relations major, attended the first hog roast and professed his satisfaction.

“It was entirely awesome,” Chatham said. “The hog was delicious and I helped split some logs.”

When asked whether the two have encountered any disapproval, they said negative reactions have been minimal.

“We’re pretty good about keeping things safe and being amiable toward our neighbors,” Thongsovat said. “My roommate’s ex-girlfriend is vegan and she was not happy about it.”

Overall, the first roast was so successful that the Club of Wilbur will be hosting its second this week. The event will be called “Wilbur’s Revenge,” and Thongsovat and Klein have already begun preparations. They hired a welder to fix certain parts of the spit, and the hunt for the next Wilbur is currently underway. They have considered retrieving the meat from the UC Davis Meat Lab.

As for future endeavors of the club, the group eventually wants to roast other animals.

“We’ve been thinking about doing suckling pigs, poultry for Thanksgiving and lambs,” Klein said.

The club is also looking into becoming campus official through the Center for Student Involvement and perhaps fundraising for charities.

“The eventual goal would be to host a charity event hog roast and get different funding sources. But it’s generally just for fun,” Thongsovat said.

“Wilbur’s Revenge” hog roast will be held on May 23. Anyone wishing to attend the next pig roast can send an e-mail to acthongsavat@ucdavis.edu or wpklein@ucdavis.edu for more information.

AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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