When Giles Coren’s producers asked Tank Jackson to appear on “Million Dollar Critic,” they envisioned the Holy City Hogs farmer adding a splash of South Carolina color to their restaurant reality show. But Jackson ended up making the BBC America host the star of his own personal “Punk’d.”
BBC America’s “Million Dollar Critic” last month visited Charleston to shoot an episode for its first season. Although the show centers on local restaurants – Coren, The Times of London’s famously hotheaded reviewer, eats multiple meals and then declares which one he likes best – it’s apparently not worth crossing the pond unless there are guaranteed shots of stereotypical Southern culture. After initially asking to see Jackson’s pigs, the producers expressed interest in his guns.
“I could see where things were going,” Jackson says. “I may have fallen off the turnip truck, but I didn’t get run over: They wanted to make me into a backward hick.”
“I don’t need any help doing that,” he adds, laughing.
Jackson played along, ultimately agreeing to prepare squirrel meat for Coren. But he had no intention of “killing an animal needlessly” — and helping a visiting Brit poke fun at regional food didn’t exactly constitute a pressing need.
Fortunately, one of Jackson’s hogs already had a morning castration date with the vet.
“I cut the testicles up in little bitty pieces, and put them in flour,” Jackson says. “So I fried him up pig nuts.”
When the film crew arrived, Jackson says, “I could tell they weren’t going to shoot anything about pigs.” Instead, they zoomed in on Coren and the plate of quasi-rodent.
“I said, ‘Now, savor the flavor’,” Jackson says.
Coren reportedly deemed the dish “pretty good,” saying he was only familiar with squirrel in its stew form. When Jackson revealed the actual recipe, Coren immediately tried to turn the trick on him: “Oh, I’m (expletive) Jewish!,” he yelped. (Coren is Jewish, but he doesn’t keep kosher: Earlier this year, he raved about the pork lungs and pickled pig ears at a Nottingham Sichuanese restaurant.)
The reflexive prank didn’t faze Jackson, who was married by a rabbi.
“Squirrel is no more kosher than hog,” he says evenly.
According to Jackson, Coren was still cheerful when he left the farm. His staffers, though, were deliriously happy.
Jackson says, “They told me after six cities with this guy, this made the whole trip worth it.”
An air date for the Charleston episode has not yet been announced.