Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's a Chit'lin?

I think the combination of being awake at midnight and being hungry has made me start contemplating soul food. I know soul food is traditional, African-American southern food. I'm just not sure what that food consists of exactly. A few years ago our family went to a picnic sponsored by a black church we had been attending. It was one of those yummy carry-ins, where everyone brings their favorite dish and plates are piled so high the food is almost dripping off the sides of the plate.  I was helping my son (very anti-vegetable) through the line when we came upon a green food that looked quite a bit like cooked spinach. I said to my son, "You won't like that, buddy. That is cooked spinach." I later learned it wasn't spinach, but collard greens. How was I to know? I've never had collard greens. I don't even know where one would go about buying a collard green. I'm guessing there was someone from the African-American church shaking their head at me thinking...How could she not know what a collard green is?

In the book, Growing Up Black in White, Kevin D. Hofmann speaks of his childhood being raised in an all white family. He talks about being in high school and introduced to soul food for the first time. His black friends took pity upon him because he had grown up with white people and decided to show him the black foods he'd been missing out on. It occurred to me, what better way to connect my daughter to her heritage than food? I like to cook and I like to eat! So it seems like soul food and I are a great combination.

I'm kind of a cooking nerd. I don't watch many cooking shows, but I do like to read cookbooks cover to cover. So researching soul food isn't that big of a stretch for me. Here is what I've discovered so far.

Chit’lin is short for chitterling, and it is stewed pig intestine. I'm up for trying new things, but we will not be serving chit'lins at our house. Collard greens are in the broccoli and cabbage family. To me, it looks a lot like a big spinach leaf when it is uncooked. 

Originally soul food or southern African-American food consisted of turnips, collards, pokeweeds, pig's feet, oxtail, ham hocks, chit'lins, and wild game (raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turtle, and rabbit). Traditionally, this food is high in starch, sodium, cholesterol, and calories.  These qualities were necessary for sustaining the grueling life of slavery.

Common twenty-first century dishes include: fried chicken, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, grits, and okra.

I plan on tackling some new soul food recipes this weekend. I will report back on how it went. Anyone want to come over for lunch on Sunday?