Originally created 11/29/97

Town goes hog wild over chitlins

Only the bravest of souls have tasted hog innards.

They're a part of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond's Southern cuisine, and entertainer James Brown eats them on occasion.

Still, there are those who just can't stomach the smell, says Hemrick Salley, who's never missed the annual Chitlin Strut festival in the town of Salley. Then there are others who can't get enough.

"Mmmm. They're so good when they're fried crisp and hot out of the grease," said Onie Boles of Hollow Creek, which is near Salley. "Don't think about what they are. Just open your mouth and pop one in."

The event began 32 years ago in Salley with the stench of hog intestines choking the air, Mr. Salley recalled.

He and his neighbors worked for hours boiling, scraping, flouring and frying a truckload of hog innards that came rolling into town. Some clipped clothespins onto their noses to keep out the smell. Others gagged and kept on frying.

Only about 100 people turned out for the first Chitlin Strut that year. Today, the festival attracts about 70,000 people.

The festival will be held today, beginning with a parade led by Mr. Thurmond at 10 a.m. There will be a hog-calling contest, a dance contest, crafts, games and concessions. From 8 p.m. to midnight, a country-western dance will be held, featuring the Abilenes.

The extensive offerings are a far cry from the first festival, which was held to pay for Christmas decorations. That year, Mayor Jack Able and a friend, Bill Dinkle, a radio personality from Columbia, figured the best way to bring in money was to have a "strut." Country cooking, a parade and entertainment would do the trick, they figured.

And to prove that everything on a hog can be eaten, the duo decided to have a "gut strut."

Curiosity is what brings most people to the two-day event, Mr. Salley said.

"People just don't believe that we actually cook hog innards, and thousands actually eat them. That's what keeps people coming back every year," he said. "Once you get past the smell, you've got it whipped."

Because tons of chitterlings are cooked each year, it takes an 18-wheeler from Smithfield Packing Co. in Virginia to haul hog intestines to Salley. They're already boiled when they arrive, so all that's left to do is clean, flour and fry them.

Boiling chitlins for at least five minutes before cleaning kills bacteria that cause severe diarrhea. While the intestines are boiling, health officials suggest, clean the kitchen and your hands with hot water and bleach powder. Then clean the chitlins as usual.

Nearly 10,000 pounds will be cooked in Salley this year. The first heap will be served after the parade.


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