By the time my grandmother, Mama Sarita, had reached her saint stage, she could find pigs’’ feet ““ready-to-cook.”” A trip to the butcher, a walk back, a packet under her arm. In the packet, two clean and hairless feet, cut below the knees. In Ecuador, one version of a traditional caldo de pata is made from the boiling down of these feet. It's a day-long boil, and it requires patience and understanding. The length of the boil is meant to reduce the soup to the pig's essence——its very pigness. Mama Sarita believed that the pig's senses, his nooks and crannies, everything that made him fight and grunt, grow pink and mean, remained there in the cut-off feet, still clutching at Andean soil. She brought out that spunk and fight in her soup. She made her pungent, spiky caldo de pata for decades, for her husband and children, and later, for packs of grandchildren.
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