By Pettus Read
As the weather turns somewhat colder with maybe the forecast of snow, I am often reminded of the annual chitlin supper that used to occur every January at my community school. It raised funds for the school, but it also often became the location for an evening of political campaigning during election years. It was sort of like the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus all rolled into one large gathering for county candidates. Any way you looked at it, pork was involved in one way or another. And it took a lot of “guts” to eat at – or even hold – the event each year. The aroma was something to behold.
The other night I was reminded of those annual suppers of swine “intestinum ingestation” long ago. During a local civic club meeting, a group of men was discussing the details of an upcoming chitlin supper to be held in a neighboring community. They could hardly wait for the doors to open on the community center for the Saturday night event. I have personally attended these hog intestine suppers and never developed a taste for them – or their smell. However, many folks do, and if that is what they enjoy, more power to them.
Whether you call them chitlins or chitterlings, the aroma is still the same. When you drive in the parking lot, you immediately know you have arrived, as the smell of cooked hog intestines drifts through the night air. The important thing to remember is never stand downwind from cooking chitlins.
This fabulous food can be consumed either fried or boiled. Fried looks sort of like breaded chicken or fish. Boiled looks like boiled intestines. This in itself should tell you something.
The one thing I have noticed at these suppers is a massive consumption of hot sauce. I guess it helps with the taste or burns your taste buds so badly you don’t realize what you are eating. And believe me, chitlins do not taste like chicken. Maybe more like a byproduct of chickens, but not a thing like chicken.
But, these affairs can be fun at times if you take the fun in the right spirit of the occasion. During one of the suppers I attended as a kid, I watched our county judge slip a few grains of shelled corn on the plate of his competition for his office next election day. His fellow candidate for judge was not much of a chitlin fan to begin with – was only there to prove to folks he was worthy of their vote. When he turned around and saw that yellow corn lying next to those chitlins, he lost his interest in country eating. The odor, the food’s presentation and now the corn’s suggestion of the product’s cleanliness, caused that candidate to express his regrets and head for the nearest door. And he lost the race that year for judge as well. I guess it does take guts to be a county official.
Some odors you just never forget. Like the smell of a polecat on a frosty night, your gym locker at the end of school full of clothes you never carried home, Blue Waltz perfume and cooked chitlins. I would have to put Blue Waltz right up there with the smell of a dead horse and a polecat, but chitlins are in a category of their own.
I never see Blue Waltz anymore, thank goodness, but chitlin suppers are still around. All you need to eat a good batch is a bottle of hot sauce, a very bad cold that stops up your head as tight as cheap underwear, and a buddy claiming that eating them will make a man out of you, and you are on your way.
It is amazing how certain things stay with us. Maybe I’m different than others by remembering odors, but once you have experienced them, it is hard to forget them. Chitlins and Blue Waltz I will never forget.