Thursday, January 22, 2009

Food for Thought -- Pig Feet

Growing up in my mostly White, suburban surroundings, I always thought that the fact that the majority of my family members considered certain pig parts a delicacy, should remain a shameful secret.

When it came time to talk about what we ate to celebrate the holidays, I never talked about the big pot of pig feet that my mother and all of her sisters prepared, for our New Year's day feast. And I certainly never tasted the offensive things, thinking that there really couldn't be anything more disgusting, except for perhaps the chittlins (intestines) which not only smelled bad, but looked revolting too.

Until later.

When I became an adult myself, having traveled the world and tasted things far stranger than a pig's foot, I decided to give this time-honored family dish a try. And guess what? I loved it. But I still kept that love a secret, for fear of seeming uncouth, vulgar, or just too damn country/uncivilized. I didn't analyze my feelings that much, I just knew eating pig feet didn't sound like something one should bring up in conversation. I considered it a family matter.

I found myself revisiting those feelings of shame the other day at the market in a chi-chi area of Philadelphia, where I was looking for pig feet. As I looked into the face of the blue-eyed, blond-haired butcher, I found myself stumbling over my request. "Do you have any..." I searched my mind for a euphemism for pig feet, "... fresh ham hocks?" I said. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "No, but I have some fresh pig feet. Do you want those?" Relief. He said it first. He wouldn't think I was crazy for asking. I took them home and whipped up a scrumptious pot of spicy red beans with the pig feet. Served with stir fried greens and blue corn pancakes. Yummy. It kind of reminded me of a Brazilian dish I ate once in New York. And that's when it hit me.

A lot of people eat pig's feet, intestines and in Spain, where my hubby is from, they eat sandwiches made from pig ears! Real Mexican pozole isn't right without a pig foot and the pig's head! So why am I freaking out over the fact that I enjoy noshing on pig toe every now and again? Why is it okay to say I eat menudo (aka Mexican pig intestines) and not chittlins? Is it exotic when other cultures eat it, but just wrong here in America?

Do you have a cultural food/dish that you keep on the down-low because you think people might be freaked out by the idea? Are people discriminated against because of what they eat?(If I'm honest, if people tell me they eat Wonder Bread, I do turn up my nose a bit, but I'm working on that.) Is there such thing as a minority food culture? Please share your thoughts and let's put this food shame to rest.


Recipe Alert. Here's a recipe for traditional southern style pig feet. I haven't tried it, but it looks good, except for the barbecue sauce part. I'd ignore that, unless of course you enjoy barbecue sauce.


Nixy Valentine said...

I've never tried pigs feet, but was always suspicious of an uncle who loved them. My auntie would have a jar of pickled pigs feet set aside just for Joe, and I have always thought that perplexing and repulsive! I'm still not tempted to try them, but reading your article made me smile, just to think about a forgotten moment.

DeeGlo said...

I have never tried pigs feet, but I do like lox and bagels. When I was a teenager, and friends came over to my house I always got a funny look from them when I ate this.

I always thought that was funny because these friends ate pigs feet and chitlins; I was only eating smoked salmon.

My mother is white and my father is black, she eats all types of different foods, pigs feet included. My father on the other hand does not eat pork because he is Seventh Day Adventist.

LT said...

Nixy Valentine,
The pickled pigs feet thing makes me squeamish too. Basically any animal part sitting in a jar kind of creeps me out!


it's funny what some people consider odd. but I love lox and bagels myself! And how about bagels, cream cheese and pesto? My jewish friend taught me that one, and all of her jewish friends thought she was crazy. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on pig feet, pig ears, intestines, brains (in scrambled eggs!), tripe and who knows what else.I gave it all up when I gave up pork. I guess between my father telling me most of the organ meat was used for bologna and hot dogs and folks were eating it anyway and everntually finding out that the other half had goose liver, sweetbread and even my tripe that I didn't think what I ate was so unusual. In traveling, I've been amazed to find out how common pig parts are! Hocks are a delicacy in southern Taiwan and yes, they eat chitterlins there, too! I've learned people eat what is near them to survive and sometimes, that ends up seeming kinda strange to others. Oh, well!

R. said...

I've eaten pig feet (the pickled kind) before but I must say the picture of that pig fee on this blog post turns my stomach a little. I draw the line at chitterlings and believe it or not I've actually been accused of not being 100 percent Black because I don't eat them. Ridiculous! The whole situation (maybe I will tell the story one day) was crazy.

Just curious, since you turn your nose up at Wonder Bread aka white bread do you only eat your sandwiches on whole wheat? Whole wheat/whole grain bread is what I prefer but if white bread if what I got (meaning someone else bought the bread and I can't get to store but want a sandwich), I will eat it since I'm quite familiar with it as it's only bread my mother bought back then.