In my book “Twenty Five Years Ago” I spoke about chores that children had to do early morning before going to school and repeat it at the end of the day. Here is how it happened and why.
“Angel, this is your week to feed the pig,” said my father. “Your brother’s job will be to spread out the coconut husks in the sun to dry and to put them inside in the afternoon. Feeding the pig was always a lot more fun than the tedious job of spreading out the coconut husks. By the way, coconut husks were used as fuel in the fire hearth for cooking so dry husks meant less smoke for mom in the outdoor kitchen.
In the morning I cracked two mature coconuts, removed the meat and fed it to our pet pig. At lunch time it was easier for the pig had lunch too and enjoyed all the leftovers- rice, tortillas, beans, fish, and even pudding if the family had some left over. Imagine our pet pig having dessert! In the evening the pig was fed with two or three more coconuts, chaya, and/or corn if any.
Now it is birthday time, Christmas, or some special family event and it is time to butcher the pig for the feast. Pork legs make a delicious ham, roast, barbecue or cochinita pibil (Maya style cuisine cooked underground). Pigtail makes a scrumptious soup dish. Pig blood with innards (intestines, heart, kidneys, liver) makes a yummy dish called “morcia” by Mestizos and blood pudding by Creoles. Pork liver with innards makes a delectable stew/gravy called “higadia” The pork skin fried very crispy yields an appetizing “chicharron” (pork rind). After frying the skin and fat, a 300 pound pig yields about 3 buckets or 120 pounds of lard or shortening. But there is more to a pig. Pig feet make a mouth-watering soup just like cow foot soup.
My dad used to joke, “With a pig, there’s nothing to waste; everything is used. And he would gather some pig hair, tie it into a bundle and on to a stick and make a small artist brush. It worked fine. And the entire head was chopped into pieces and preserved with salt for cooking 2 or 3 months later. In Benque and Corozal they cooked the hog head, decorated it with candies and balloons and had the hog-head dance, a cultural tradition that I understand happened in San Pedro in the 1930’s. Finally, mom used to scrape the lard from the bottom of the can, which had some chicharron or bacon chips, rolled it into a tortilla for a delectable “cholesterol-free” pig fat taco. Fortunately, 25 years ago doctors had not yet discovered cholesterol. Ah, one final observation! Kids took the urinary bladder of the pig, dried it, and inflated it for an imperfect beach ball or volleyball. It was worth the efforts raising pigs, right?
– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist