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.
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.