Me: So, what are these foods that you’re describing?
DH: Uhm… Sals is leftover pig parts— I don’t know what parts specifically. Uhm, it’s good… Chitlins is really more of a Southern delicacy now, but it used to be… I’m pretty sure that’s just pig intestines and all that, right?
Me: I believe so. Yeah.
DH: So, the reason that black people eat that is, you know, back in slavery, the owner would give you whatever they had left… You gotta eat something… I’ve never eaten chitlins, but…
Me: Have you had family members who have eaten it?
DH: My dad. Uhm, mostly every family gathering—you know like Christmas, Thanksgiving—they’re gonna have that at somebody’s house.
Me: … It’s interesting too, because I’m pretty sure my mom eats chitlins as well and so does my dad, occasionally.
DH: It’s really more of like a Southern thing.
Me: It’s interesting how it’s evolved in that way.
This was performed over FaceTime with one of my best friends from high school, who is African-American. She lives in Brandon, Mississippi, a small town right next to the state capital of Jackson and is a freshman studying Communications at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
As my friend said, this most likely derives from Slavery Era practices in the American South. When slave masters were finished with their meals, they would give the scraps to their slaves. This included all the undesirable parts of a pig, and so this adaptation to ‘eating anything’ and making the most out of a bad situation was most likely necessary for survival. It was probably passed down through generations and developed as a cultural delicacy amongst black southerners. This is evidence to how people take traumatic experiences from their collective histories and evolve it into a way of embracing one’s past and culture. It has now developed more as a general Southern delicacy, right along the line with gizzards. Food that is so rich in history like this, that was once used as a way of division, is now being used as a point of connection amongst communities.
See more on ‘Ethnic Folklore’ below:
Oring, Elliott. “Ethnic Groups and Ethnic Folklore.” In Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by E. Oring, 23-44.Logan: Utah State University Press, 1986.