Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down Home Poke Salad

I was down in South Dallas once for New Years. I must have been around nineteen or twenty years old and was of course the only white boy in a night club of about four hundred black people.

For the big night out, they had catered the evening with the biggest buffet of Southern Soul Food you have ever seen in your life. I got through with my second set and joined another band member, Rick Caldwell, to run through the buffet.

The line to get fried chicken was too long so I opted for the chitlins instead. Only problem was I didn't know what a chitlin was but I was so hungry I had lost patience and just grabbed what I could off the line.

We sat down in a corner and Rick kept watching me out of the corner of his eye, almost sly like as I began to eat my plate of food. As I chewed the chitlins, they began to expand in my mouth and didn't seem to be breaking down like regular food. The taste was horrible and it just kept getting bigger and bigger as I kept on chewing.

I got it down to what I thought might pass through my throat and swallowed as hard as I could insuring a tremendous slam to my stomach and as I did, Rick started laughing.

"Say you like them chitlins?"

I replied, "What the hell is a chitlin anyway?"

"Hog intestines white boy...hog intestines. Eatem' up before they get cold on you."

I've thought about that night for years as the idea that a human being could actually develop a taste for chitlins just floors me. You've got to be one hungry person to eat chitlins and assuming that's the only thing you've got to eat, I suppose one could develop a taste for it. I would pay top dollar, however, just to see what Kent Rathbun or Dean Fearing could do with a plate of chitlins.

The Old South can be a tough road to go down and within our current society, there are obviously fragments of this road in dishes like chitlins and what some folks call Poke Salad.

The actual name of this plant is Poke Sallet. I suppose the Sallet turned into salad as we Southerners tend to just round things off in our mouths sometimes. The plant was used in folk medicines and prepared as food when folks didn't have too much else to select from. A perennial plant, it grows wild in disturbed soil so you can find it around fences surrounding a pen or corral.

You'll want to pick the plant when it's young and tender. After it has bloomed and has berries, it's too late as the plant will contain toxins that can make you sick.

Wash the greens thoroughly and put them in a large pot with enough water to cover. Boil them for five minutes or so and then drain and replace with hot boiling water. Boil them again for an additional five minutes. Drain them again and then put them in a good cast iron skillet with about six Tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add one finely chopped onion, cover and let it simmer until the onions are tender. Beat five eggs until foamy and scramble them with the greens and onions all together.

Salt and pepper to taste and get you some Southern soul my brothers and sisters.

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