By Pua O Eleili Pinto
Pig Feet Soup is a postpartum tradition in my family from my Chinese side. But for the last two generations, it's been passed down through story and in a rather repulsive way.
My Kung (great-grandfather) made it for my mother after she gave birth. But he wouldn’t enter the house after she gave birth (Chinese superstition). He and my Apo (great-grandmother) would deliver the soup to my mom’s house. Apo went inside with the soup, and my Kung made his way to a window from the outside of the house. My Apo would then grab the newborn and show my Kung through the window.
As for the soup, not long after Kung and Apo left, down the sink and into the garbage it went, not even touched!
In fact, it wasn’t just my mom that threw it away; my grandmother (originally from Idaho and of British descent) gags too when she hears about that soup tradition and says, “I would have tossed it too.” “Luckily” for her, she gave birth in Idaho and Kung and Apo were in Pālolo, Hawaiʻi.
After reading the medicinal properties of the ingredients and learning how in my Hawaiian ancestry too, pig is an important part of postpartum healing, I was so appalled at how the last two generations thought about food and healing. I teared up thinking about the labor of love that my Kung spent making the soup just to have it be thrown in the trash.
However, making Chinese Pig Feet Soup for my postpartum, was a bit of a challenge as I didn't have a recipe, just my grandfather telling me, “lots of ginger, black vinegar, garlic, maybe star anise, and of course, pig feet.” My first thought was where the heck do I get pig feet? I've never seen or cooked it before.
Luckily I was working at a nature preserve that was interested in learning more ways to process the pigs that they had started farming as well as the wild pigs caught in traps that had been ruining farm beds and kalo patches.
One of the volunteers, an elder Uncle , actually knew how to make the soup and did a workshop for us. Telling him my postpartum plan, he quickly jumped at the opportunity and said he would make it for me.
I broke out into tears, especially when postpartum came and I was finally drinking the soup just as my Kung intended for the women of our family to do. After just one sip of the soup, I could feel my womb contracting and releasing a good amount of the leftover blood it had still been holding. After eating the soup I went into a deep slumber and woke up revitalized; it was like nothing I have experienced before from food.
My kung (the one still alive), has been important part of re-learning to make this soup, calling him telling him what I learned and if it aligned with what his dad and popo (grandmother) did/thought. It came full circle when I finally got to make him the soup, to hear him say, wow takes like my popo's was the best moment. Family practices even if they lay dormaint through the generations, are always within our DNA. Our ancestors too are always there, just waiting for us to ask for their help once again.
Pua O Eleili Kelsi Pinto was born and raised majority in Kailua Oʻahu. Starting at 6 years old for 6 years her family lived in Boise, Idaho where her mother's mother's family have lived since migrating there as pilgrims. In 6th grade her family moved back to Kailua where her father's family had been in Kailua for 2 generations. Before that it was from Waiehu, Maui and Kona on Hawaiʻi island. She is of Kanaka ʻŌiwi, Chinese, Portuguese, Irish, and British descent. ʻŌiwi and Chinese are the most influential cultures as the stories of medicine keepers still are passed on from those lines. Pua looks to those ancestors for guidance as a growing practitioner of lomilomi (touch of aloha through massage), lāʻau lapaʻau (ʻōiwi plant medicine), other forms of plant medicine like Dō†erra Essential oils, and ʻoihana hoʻohānau keiki (ʻōiwi child birthing).