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Term of the Week: Chitlins(+)

Author: Tafari, Thursday, May 10th, 2007 at 3:15 AM

While on the way home from work Tuesday I got call from Suite Suzy who was home cooking dinner. Tuesday's dinner menu was Cuban black beans over jasmine rice served with sautéed lemon garlic chicken & a wonderful avocado & onion salad. Sounds good right?

Well the reason why Suite Suzy called me was because she was out of fresh green peppers & needed me to stop @ the store. Because I was looking forward to dinner like a mutha I took my ass to the store to get the necessary ingredients.

Side note: I hate going to the grocery store with a passion.

So I make it to the store, get the peppers & wind up getting a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos (my favorite chips) & a Snickers bar. While making my way to the check-out I passed the meat area & saw a freezer full of 10lbs buckets of chitlins. I mean they had so many chitlin buckets I thought is was like some chitlin festival scheduled for Mother’s day. Mindspill

Seeing chitlin buckets brings all sorta flash backs to me:I remember smelling the foul odor during holiday seasons when I lived with my mother.,I recall being hit in the face with a raw chitlin because I pissed my mom off while she was cleaning them the night before Thanksgiving 1987, and lastly, I think about how I had to sit at the dinner table & watch/listen my mom, brother & sister splurp on hot sauce soaked chitlins with shit juice dripping off of their chitlin starved faces (I really do love my family).

So I guess by now you have realized that I do not eat piggy dookie shoots (as Suite Suzy calls them)!

One thing that really discusses me during the holidays is when I call my mom usually the night before & she picks up the phone while she is elbow deep cleaning 20lbs of chitlins.

Anyway the bottom line is my little chitlin sighting the other day inspired the term(s) of the week; 1) Chitlins & 2) The Chitlin Circuit cuz you can’t have one without the other.
History of Chitlins:

Let us consider what chitlins are - they are hog intestines or guts. Some people turn up their noses at the mention of chitlins; other leave the house while they are cooking, driven away by their odor. However, the volume sold for New Year's dinners, with Christmas and Thanksgiving not far behind, attests to chitlins popularity in the United States. Chitterlings is the more formal name, but most people call them chitlins. They are usually part of a larger meal that includes collard greens, fried chicken, and other traditional Southern foods. Chitlins are not for the faint of palate or smell, which is why traditionally they were cooked outdoors at backyard hog killings in winter. They are a food that you either love or hate!

Chitlins take a lot of time and effort to clean. They are partially cleaned when they are sold, but require additional hand cleaning before they are ready to eat. The secret to good and safe chitlins is in the cleaning, not in the cooking. They are available in supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods, especially during the holiday season. they can also be ordered from a butcher, but be prepared to buy 10 pounds of chitlins to get 5 pounds to cook.

Animal innards have long been treasured foods around the world. Scotland's national dish is haggis (sheep's stomach stuffed with the animal's minced heart, liver, and lungs). Throughout Europe, tripe (cow or ox stomach) is popular, and French chefs in upscale restaurants serve dishes based on cow's brains and kidneys.

In 1996, the town of Salley, South Carolina, inaugurated the annual Chitlin' Strut. The first festival attracted about a hundred people. Today the festival draws about 70,000 people. It is estimated that more than 128,000 pounds of chitlins have been eaten during the festival's history.

Eating chitlins in the rural South is not as common as it once was. In colonial times, hogs were slaughtered in December, and how maws or ears, pigs feet, and neck bones were given to the slaves. Until emancipation, African-American food choices were restricted by the dictates of their owners, and slave owners often fed their slaves little more than the scraps of animal meat that the owners deemed unacceptable for themselves. Because of the West African tradition of cooking all edible parts of plants and animals, these foods helped the slaves survive in the United States. (Read More | Source | What’s Cooking in America)

It came in 10-pound container from the meat section
next to the hog jaws and hog maws and cow’s tongue and scrapple.

Mom used to clean them mid-day when I wasn't home
and when I was, I tried to get out. The acrid mustardy smell
of intestines boiling coated the house. I wondered
if our neighbors thought we were re-enacting a tribal ritual
with animal sacrifices, maybe we were.

Dad just liked the fleshy taste and mom was indifferent.
It was something they did out of habit rather than tradition.

I watched her from the front yard as she’d take
a hunk like rope and scrape the fat, let the froth
simmer to the top of the pot like wet paper.

She’d boil a pan of water with vanilla flavoring
next to the chitlins to fool us but who was she kidding?
Nothing covered the stench of that pork mush.

I imagined that this smell was evil, like boiled human entrails,
and I’d get sick from my own thoughts;
thoughts conjured from a time before me,
of never having enough but using every part what remained.

Pasty as wet paper, I thought this is what it came down to:
choice—my father eating the viscera,
and my mother poised to offer me a bowl,
the off-ramp of a swine’s innards,
knowing that this was all a part of me.

Chitlins ~ January O'Neil aKa Poet Mom

What is the Chitlin Circuit?

A circuit of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences.

When Jim Crow and segregation were even more prominent in the United States, the Negro race, freed through emancipation, did not have equal access to public “White Only” places. The Chitlin’ Circuit - a connected string of music venues, diners, juke joints, and theaters throughout the eastern and southern United States that catered primarily to African American audiences was created.

The Chitlin’ Circit was the only option for touring Black entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ike and Tina Turner, B. B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, T.D. Bell and the Blues Specialists, Roosevelt "Gray Ghost" Williams, Eubie Blake, Robert Shaw, Big Joe Williams and many others begin touring in an effort to “eek” out a living when Jim Crow and segregation was even more prominent in the United States.

Historically, Baltimore was the first city on the Chitlin' Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit stretched through the South, bending westward throughout Texas, extending Eastward on through Chicago, offering continuous opportunities for black entertainers.

Many clubs were opened specifically for the Chitlin' Circuit, such as the Historic Victory Grill in Austin, Texas. Opened in 1945, The Victory Grill’s history is an integral component to the prospering of the legendary “Chitlin' Circuit”. A juke joint offering food, beer, jazz and rhythm and blues music and dancing, the club soon became a hot spot for locals to listen to touring Black entertainers. The Historic Victory Grill is alive and well presenting blues and jazz entertainment. (Source | Urban Dictionary)
Back to Me:

Do you eat chitlins and or do you have any interesting chitlin stories. Also have you seen any notable acts on the Chitlin Circuit.

I have seen a few Chitlin Circuit plays; most notably, Mama I Want to Sing. My dad took me to see it one summer during my visit with him in Birmingham, AL in the late 80's. I remember having fun with him.

Shit! I better stop because I am getting teary-eyed thinking about the good times with my dad.

11 Responses to “Term of the Week: Chitlins(+)”

  1. Cluizel Says:

    Ok…1. Can I come eat dinner at your house?!? Damn that sounds yummy

    2. Smacked in the face with a chitlin?!? Oh wow

    3. When you first said Chitlin Circuit my mind immediately went to Little Brother…lol. I was listening to that “mix tape” this morning

    I would not willing go near a chitlin…Hell to the no.

    One year, I have no idea how, I ended up helping my Grandma clean the chitlins for Thanksgiving. UGH! We were in the basement with all the windows open and the smell still made it up two flights of stairs. So not only did I clean them for AT LEAST 2 hours, I had to smell it while I slept. I was scarred. That was the nastiest shit I have ever done in life…I swear is like the Negro Fear Factor. I have never eaten a chitlin and I do not intend to…ever.

    We’re not slaves anymore…put that shit down now! Please use your hot sauce for something more delicious…like fried fish or chicken. I repeat…back away from the chitlins


  2. Michelle W. Says:

    Hit in the face with a chitlin’. I can’t believe it. That must have been terrible.

    I have to be honest. Back in the day I used to eat chitlins’. It was not one of my finer moments but it happened. It was back in my momma’s “you gone eat whatever the hell I put on your plate and love it” days. I also was so young I didn’t know what the hell I was eating. And the funny thing is since there was so much hot sauce on my plate I could not taste it.

    My chitlin eating days came to an abrupt end one Christmas I got food poisoning and ironically while the food was coming up all I could taste was the chitlins’. So since then I have been chitlin’ free. But to this day people in my family still eat and fight over the last bite of chitlins.


  3. Bygbaby Says:

    Cluziel – The door is always open & we always put guests to work. Like Mike Jones said, you don’t work, you don’t eat, you don’t grind, you don’t shine LOL. Your Grandma has a shit load (pun intended) of chitlins for that shit to travel & yall had windows open.

    You know when I was compiling my info, I thought about Little Brothers Chitlin Circuit CD (one of my favorites). I told you that mix tape was hot!!!

    Michelle – Getting hit with one was really fucked up & if that shit happened today, I would call the police for reckless child endangerment LOL. Your last chitlin experience is fucked up! Sounds like somebody did not get all that membrane out LOL.


  4. Bush Babee Says:

    Dude, I’m Atlanta, GA. You can’t go a single holiday without the stench of Chitlins in the air. I almost died as a child from Chitlins. I wouldn’t eat them then my parents almost killed me!


  5. January Says:

    I read this post on Wednesday and have not had a chance to comment until now.

    I agree 120 percent–chitlins are nas-tay! Really can’t stand them, yet that smell will stay with me f-o-r-e-v-e-r!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Looking forward to reading more posts.

  6. daez Says:

    Dude, I grew up in a house where chitlin’s were served for all major holidays! Yep, I ate em til about 81…that’s when my daughter was “ordered by my mom to help her clean a batch (cuz I never would), and got a horrible rash all up her arms!..gave them up after that incident…and yep, I definitely knew what they were when I was eating them…(sigh)… (((HUGS)))…
    ….just me…daez

  7. The Second Sixty-Eight Says:

    You musta really been a dumbass that day. You know black moms throw the first thing handy when we get beside ourselves! I would have fell the hell out in the middle of the kitchen floor and DIED!!!! It is funny though!

    I can’t fuck with them things. I don’t eat NOTHING that requires that much trouble. I mean you go and buy 20 pounds of “superclean” chitlins, spend 6-8 hours cleaning THEM and get 3 forkfuls outta the pot after all the cooking and shrinking? Not at all worth it to me. And how can you eat something that smells so bad during the cooking and cleaning process?

  8. Bygbaby Says:

    Daez – Damn a chitlin rash, that has to be the worse thing ever. How do you react to the smell now if you encounter it?

    The Second Sixty-Eight – I did have a mouth on me & when I reminded my mom about this the other day, she said sometimes I did not know when to shut the fuck up.

    You chitlin math is on the money & I see you are the smart one LOL.


  9. Bygbaby Says:

    January – Thanks again for letting me cop your piece!


  10. Lola Gets Says:

    Alright now, you gonna make me post the pics I took of my great-aunt cleaning chitlins! LOL
    MAN, that was funny!

    As for the Chitlin Circut, my great-great aunt Gertrude Saunders was a blues singer and did a lot on that lovely circut. I want to say that I wish our modern circut was as artistic, but I think that might be pushing the envelope too much, lol.


  11. Bygbaby Says:

    Ohhhhhh Lola, I would love to see that pic. You should do a bog response to my chitlin post, LOL

    How awesome that you have a real connection with our entertainment history.


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