Monday, December 11, 2017

Teaching About and Through Media As I Learn a Family Tradition

Last Wednesday, I went to my parents' house to participate in and preserve a special holiday tradition: the initial preparation of the Christmas meal of garlic pork.

My mother is 81 and my father is 77; they won't be around forever and their memories are not what they once were. My job was to help out but to record the required steps for making garlic pork. I've attempted this archiving before, but there is one small problem with my previous efforts - I taped it with my video camera on a VHS tape. My parents still own a VHS tape player but we ditched ours ages ago and replaced it with Blu-Ray DVD player. I'm not able to view what I made before. My hope is that by blogging about how to make garlic pork, this media text type will be accessible in the future. Since I always print a bound copy of my blog, compiling the year's posts, I am confident that I will at least have a print version of the instructions.

Echoes of concepts introduced by my media AQ course continued resonate even as I watched, typed notes on an app on my phone, and took photos with a "proper" camera. My mother started to pose for the camera, aware of her invisible audience. My parents' way of preparing this meal and the descriptions they used clashed with the directions that my brother and I needed so that we'll be able to replicate it; (this shows media has social, political, ideological and value messages)

"How much pork do you need to buy?"
"How much is enough?"
"I just eye-ball it."
"But how many pieces?" [runs to package and examines the weight]

Below is the commentary-free, "just the facts ma'am" version of how to make garlic pork, with photos for clarity. As you can tell, I kept all the commentary for the first part of the blog post - you'll notice that Stage 3 of the instructions are a bit vague; we weren't able to pin my parents down to specifics and I have no pictures of this part of the process, because it's done early on Christmas Day morning. Another caveat if you are going to try and make this - eating garlic pork will make you smell strongly of garlic and make you burp! The "cure" is to consume the garlic pork while drinking straight gin. I thought this was just an excuse to drink early in the morning but there must be some sort of folksy reason to it because once I considered myself old enough to drink the gin, the burping wasn't as frequent or as odiferous.

Portuguese-Guyanese Garlic Pork

(A Christmas Day Tradition)


  • 10 heads of garlic
  • 5 bags of oregano
  • wiri wiri peppers
  • vinegar (pickling vinegar or white vinegar)
  • 4-5 pounds of lean pork (e.g. boneless pork loin chops)
  • salt
  • water
  • vegetable oil


- a mill grinder (or small blender)
- 3 large bowls
- 3 large forks or tongs
- 1 big sharp cutting knife
- a glass or mason jar with a secure lid
- a pot for boiling
- a fry pan


A - Making the "Guck"

1) Peel the garlic

2) Grind or blend the garlic with the oregano in a mill (or small blender). Add a couple of wiri wiri peppers for every (or every other) batch ground up, depending on how strong or mild you want the guck to be. 

3) After grinding, add a little bit of vinegar to the ground up garlic, oregano and peppers so that it is the consistency of porridge.

B - Preparing the Pork

4) Remove the fat from the pork and cut into pieces that are approximately 2" x 1" (5cm x 2.5 cm)

5) Prepare three large bowls and three designated forks (use the forks or tongs only with the assigned bowl so you do not contaminate the contents).

The first bowl has room temperature water, enough to submerge the pork.

The second bowl has salt water. (Put 4 teaspoons of salt in the bowl.)

The third bowl contains vinegar and some of the "guck" (2-3 large spoons)

6) Put some pork in the first bowl for about one minute long. Swoosh it around and watch how the water changes colour. You must replace the liquid from the first bowl after every rinsed batch.

7) Shake off the excess water from the pork (using designated fork 1) and transfer the pork to bowl 2.

8) Stir the pork in the second bowl with the designated second fork. It should stay in this liquid for about two minutes. You can change this liquid once you notice that the water is a different colour (not as regularly as you'll have to change the first bowl).

9) Use fork #2 to place the pork into the third bowl. It should stay in this bowl for about a minute.

10) Just before placing the first pieces of the ready pork from bowl #3 into the mason jar, line the bottom of the mason jar with a layer of vinegar and guck so it has a base.

11) Use fork #3 to transfer the pork to the mason jar. Once you have a layer of pork, add more vinegar and guck - don't let the mixture get too dry; it should look moist.

12) Continue to marinate / soak the pieces of pork from bowl 1 to 2 to 3 to the mason jar. Add vinegar, guck, and then about 2 teaspoons of salt to the mason jar. Make sure you do not overfill it. Then, put the lid on the mason jar and seal it. Keep it sealed for two-and-a-half weeks.

C - Cooking the Garlic Pork

13) Boil the pork in some of the liquid that it was pickled in with a bit of water until it gets to the stage where, when you stick it with a fork, it feels soft enough.

14) After boiling it, fry it in a fry pain with a tiny bit of vegetable oil. Turn it while frying and fry it until just before it gets brown. 

I don't know when I'll be brave enough to try and make garlic pork on my own (my husband and children have definitely NOT acquired the taste) but I'm grateful I spent some time with my parents to go over the process and preserve the pork and the tradition.

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