Sunday, November 27, 2011

Writing Envy

I wish I had written this:
"But my husband has seen me at my worst, at my most vile. And he has seen me at my best. He knows the things I don’t tell anyone, and the lies that I tell everyone but him. I have made sacrifices for him and been angry about it. Sometimes his flaws are so egregious, so blatant, they are all I see. And sometimes his kindness is so stunning that I am humbled."--Sarah Healy, "When the Words Don't Fit," New York Times

And this:
"I must learn to love the fool in me--the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool." -- Theodore I. Rubin, MD

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chasing Chitlins: A Thanksgiving Folk Tale

A couple years ago, I worked on a travel story for a local magazine. I had always wanted to attend the annual Chitlin Strut in Salley, SC, and this offered the perfect opportunity.

The chitlin, for the uninitiated, is the intestine of a pig. Rinsed, scrubbed, this white rubbery organ (I hesitate to call it meat) still is never quite released from the pungent odor that you might imagine it would hold after being intimately associated with, let's face it, pig poop. Yet, roughly 25,0000 people descend on Salley (pop. 398) every year at Thanksgiving time to ride carnival rides, shop for arts and crafts, and eat literally miles of the stuff.

As Asians, you can imagine we've dined on our share of innards. My aunt and mom have served us pig stomach (tripe), chicken feet (with the fingernails still on!), deeply burnished ducks that stared back out of one glaze-covered eye. My mom once gave my husband, who is not Asian, a pig tail in soup, and like a trooper, he ate it.

So the whole family caravaned to Salley to try our luck at chitlins. As we crept along downtown Salley's narrow streets, narrowly missing striking pedestrians, my husband rolled down his window and shouted out to the crowds filing past, "Where are the chitlins?" And they shouted back, "This way." "No, over there." "Try that church over there, they're the best!" We were surrounded by hordes of helpful tourists who seemed to know what they liked and were eager to initiate us.

We soon found ourselves standing on a crowded lawn ringed by food vendors of all description, but classified in that category known as fair food. Where were the chitlins? While my husband and brothers went to investigate, the rest of us scoped out and staked our claim on a patch of green grass.

Success! in a rectangular styrofoam box! And terror! as my sister exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, I thought that smell was the port-o-potties, but it's the chitlins!" Yes, the rank smell that we had caught a whiff of every now and then was eminating from the innocent and attractive box of deep fried nuggets (with a side of hot sauce).

My sister, my brother and my husband all made it through one bite and one hard swallow. I spat out my mouthful after two chews. My second brother on the other hand, snacked his way through an entire chitlin nugget and even went after more. My sister, looking at the photos later, said, "He smiles his biggest smile ever...while he's eating a chitlin?"

Yes, the fair food was there to wash down the taste once you tried the chitlins. Yet we couldn't tear our eyes away during the first annual Chitlin Eating contest, where contestants were given small buckets of boiled (yes, not even given the helpful flavor and crunch of breading), bare, hideously white chitlin tubes, that they shoved down in massive quantities.

The Salley Chitlin Strut is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity--not to be missed, for the bragging rights alone. But the takeaway? Know your limits, always carry hot sauce, and when in doubt, don't stand downwind.

The 46th Annual Chitlin Strut takes place in Salley, SC, on Saturday, November 26. The event features a parade, bands, carnival rides, tractor show, chitlin eating contest, hog calling contest and strut contest. For more information, visit their website at