EASTHAM — Standing behind a row of plastic folding tables, seven Elks wearing matching black aprons are busy slicing hunks of whole roasted pig. Eighty or so onlookers keep a close eye on the action, ready for dinner at the Orleans-Eastham Elks Lodge annual pig roast, held this year on July 22.
Mike Kennedy, a lodge member who lives in Eastham, says the crew arrived at 6 a.m. to start roasting the pig for the 4 p.m. meal. Despite the cartoon of a hog on a spit that decorated the event’s invitation, the job is actually done using simpler technology. Kennedy shows off the setup: a steel rack balanced above the fire pit where the pig was roasted for 10 hours. “It has to be turned every five minutes,” Kennedy says.
Though flipping an 80-pound pig more than 100 times is no easy feat, the Elks and their guests all agreed that the day was worth it. Albert Pease, who supervised some of that heavy lifting, is clearly the resident expert on pig-turning technique. Pease lives in Wellfleet and has been an Elk for 44 years; he says he loves the camaraderie of the lodge.
Ruth Murphy, the main organizer of this year’s roast, agrees. “We’re a family,” she says. Organizing the roast, which she says has been held annually for some 15 years, was no trouble at all: past Elks have handed down detailed instructions on where to get a pig, how much to order, how to cook it, and what else to serve. “We have what we call the bible,” Murphy says. “And it tells us what we need to do.”
This year, however, getting the porker off its feet was no walk in the park. The Exalted Ruler of the Eastham Elks Lodge, Kathy Gill, learned that the lodge’s usual pork purveyor was no longer slaughtering in Massachusetts, so the Elks had to do some sleuthing.
“One of our members Googled ‘pig farm,’ ” Gill says, and found one in Foster, R.I. — “the boondocks off Route 101, on East Killingly Road.” The volunteer who drove to collect the beast reported back that “Lewis and Clark would have needed a satellite” to find the place, she says.
With the slicing completed, a plethora of side dishes appeared from inside the lodge: potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, and steaming hot corn on the cob. The line wrapped around the yard as people went to fill their plates. The Rock Harbor 3 covered “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot, then moved on to the ’80’s with Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”
Ann Heitman, a former Elk from Jacksonville, Fla. who spends summers in Eastham, has been a regular at the pig roast for the past five years. “It’s the highlight of my summer,” she says. As for the barbecue, “It was juicy,” she says, pointing across the yard to Pease, the unofficial grillmaster. “He does a fabulous job.”
Not content to keep the pig roast to herself, Heitman shares the wealth: she always buys an extra six to-go dinners, which she says she gives to the “ladies from Guatemala who have the fingernail shop.”
Asa Kuppens, six, came to the roast with his father, Nick. The two recently moved back to Eastham after a stint living in Washington, D.C. Nick’s father was also an Elk, he says. He and Asa have been to the lodge’s annual talent show and Easter Egg roll, and they were there for a visit from Santa Claus.
Asa has demolished his pork. “I like the sauce,” he says. But as for Santa, he adds, “I saw a zipper. He wasn’t real.”
“Don’t stop believing, buddy,” says Nick.
“The pork’s good, the entertainment’s good, and it’s really nice to be a member of a community,” Nick adds. For him, the lodge is a place to enjoy the neighborly ties that prompted their move back to Eastham. “We’re missing that in today’s society.”
If you missed the pig roast, Elks Lodge #2572 hosts bingo every Tuesday from 5 to 9:30 p.m., cookouts every Wednesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and fish fries every Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. They will hold an end-of-season barbecue from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26. All events are open to the public.