In the summer of 1965; Mom took her children to the Philippines. It was the summer that forever changed me in many ways. I learned what it meant to be of privilege and what it meant to be of poverty. The two stood side by side in stark reality on the streets of Manila. I came from a Blue-Collar working class existence. Everything in my world up until then was balanced – no rich; no poor. Equal. I remember going with Mom to visit with some classmates in a very tall building in Manila. All day, servants brought out dish after dish of food – a never-ending supply of food. The women gathered, ate and played Mahjong all day and into the evening hours. As the sun dipped below the horizon and the night grew dark, I could see the people below; building cooking fires and preparing what there was of an evening meal. It struck me – there but by the grace of God go I. In the Philippines; it wasn’t so much a matter of what you made of your life but to what station you were born. I remember standing in front of a large window, looking out at the city, down to the street and back at the table behind me – lined with more food than we could possibly eat. Mom joined me at the window. She followed my gaze and in complete silence; put her arm around me. She understood my unspoken questions, just as I understood her unspoken answers. I don’t think we were ever more closely linked than at that moment.
Oh, wow – where did that come from? I remember years later; Mom asked me if I had any regrets in life. I said no, because every experience – good or bad – shaped the person you were to become. That evening so long ago taught the lesson of compassion. A lesson that has stayed with me for a lifetime. It was also the summer I considered becoming a Nun – an aspiration that was abandoned once boys became of interest.
Filipino Spare Ribs
6 pounds pork spareribs
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 Cup stock – chicken or beef
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 whole star anise pods
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place ribs in a 5 to 6 quart stock pot with the 2 wedged onions, 4 tablespoons of the soy sauce, pepper and star anise. Add just enough broth to prime pot, about 1/2 cup. (You will want ribs to eventually cook in their own juices) Bring all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer in meat juices until ribs are tender when pierced, about 1 1/4 hours. Stir occasionally. Only add more broth if not enough liquid is accumulating in the pot for the ribs to cook in meat juices.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add remaining chopped onion and saute, stirring often, until onion is soft. Blend in the ginger, honey, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Cook all together, stirring, until well blended. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using tongs, remove ribs from stock pot and arrange in a single layer in an 11 x 16 inch baking dish. Brush evenly with the honey mixture and bake in the preheated oven, basting often with pan drippings, about 30 minutes or until ribs are well glazed.
To get that nice, grilled look ribs can be finished on a grill (great when grilling other foods) for a few minutes per side or placed under the broiler for a few minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning as the glaze is high in sugar.