by Rochelle DelaCruz
To all of our holiday gatherings in Seattle, my mother-in-law brings ears. I don’t mean that she’s a good listener. I mean that she brings The Ears.
I tell her, “Just bring yourself.” I figure that when you get past 65, you should be able to retire not only from work but also from cooking, at least for large family get-togethers. But my mother-in-law insists. “I’ll just bring the ears…for Rrrroy,” rolling that r with extra affection for her son.
You’d think by now our children would be used to ears at the table, but not those little tyrants. Recalling earlier dinners, I give them one of my gentle pep talks. “Gramma’s bringing ears on Thursday and I don’t wanna see any face or hear any lip from any of you. Got it?” I point my finger and run it in front of those three conspirators.
“Gross,” says one of the boys.
“Eeeeuuu!” says the girl.
The youngest looks like he’s going to cry. “Yuuuuk! Why do we have to have ears on Thanksgiving?”
“Maybe so you can be thankful you can hear,” I remind them. When are they going to learn? Their grandmother always prepares for her oldest son their father, pig ears: boiled, diced, then picked with garlic and vinegar. “He loves this,” she told me early in our marriage. I figure that someday I should learn how to make them, but as we’re planning our holiday dinners, she always says, “I’ll just make the pig ears since you’re busy with the other dishes.” And I admit I am happy that she takes charge of the ears.
I learned long ago that if I let those picky kids of mine have their way, they’d tell me to throw out the turkey neck, long-simmered in stock, and the tender tail, pulled from the bird as soon as it comes out of the oven, instead of serving them as juicy appetizers. I’d have to banish the heart, liver and gizzard from giblet gravy. And you wouldn’t even be hearing about these ears, if I allowed those food know-nothings to dictate good eating. But I don’t.
When their grandmother shows up with the ears in her faithful Tupperware covered container, I bring her my best bowl that she gave me one Christmas, and watch as she gently spoons the ears from plastic to crystal.
Then I take the sparkling bowl of ears and put it there on the table, right next to the turkey, in the place of honor.
From Emmie Villarino
My mother-in-law died in 2001, before I learned from her how to prepare the pig ears. But her dear friend Emmie Villarino shared this recipe with me, so that I can carry on the fine tradition. Mahalo Emmie! ~RdC
2 lbs of pig ears – clean, boil until ears are tender and drain.
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