Memoir

Pickled Pigs’ Feet and Other Postpartum Treats

Chinese culture dictates that new mothers bundle up indoors for a full month, consuming a strict diet of warming stews and pungent vinegars. Can a second-generation Chinese-American in Queens hang with this antiquated tradition?

Pickled Pigs’ Feet and Other Postpartum Treats

According to traditional Chinese “confinement” practices, new mothers must rest and replenish their bodies for thirty days after giving birth. During that time women bundle up in blankets and heavy clothing and stay inside, eating special warming and strengthening foods prepared by family members. Anything thought to diminish warmth—  certain vegetables, cold beverages, and bathing — is forbidden.

After her son Rhys was born, Annie Cok adopted a special diet and didn’t leave her apartment in Queens for a whole month — but some of these ancient traditions were a bridge too far.