The red salt pig arrived a few days ago. I’d ordered it for my husband for Christmas, but he opened the Amazon box and saw it, miraculously unbroken, chucked in there with some nuts and bolts and wood polish. My order had gotten jumbled up with his.
“What the heck is this?” He held up the Émile Henry piece of pottery which, empty, looked like a five-inch replica of a ship’s smokestack, not like the elegant salt holder that stands proud alongside every French stove, the one I’d been meaning to buy for 10 or maybe 15 years.
“It’s called a salt pig,” I said. “It’s supposed to keep salt from clumping. Apparently ‘pig’ means ‘earthenware vessel’ in ancient Scottish.”
“Looks like a PVC pipe elbow.” He shrugged and took his new nuts and bolts to the garage.
No point in wrapping and putting it under the tree for him now. I filled the glossy pig with the fancy French salt I’d bought five or maybe 10 years ago and placed it next to the stove, but it still felt empty.
In the B.A. era (Before Amazon), if I’d had a hankering for a red salt pig, I would have bought one at a store (if I managed to find one) after first inspecting it and all the other salt pigs for any nicks or cracks. Or perhaps I would have chanced upon one in France and brought it home, nestling it snug in my suitcase. I would have wrapped it in bright paper and tied it with a bow. I might even have composed a little riddle for the tag, since my husband certainly wouldn’t be expecting a red salt pig under the Christmas tree and it would be fun to watch him guess. He wouldn’t have mentioned it resembling a PVC pipe elbow, and he would have known I had really bought the pig for myself.