Gross Things To Eat: Chitlins

Offal, to some, is nectar of the gods. Consider for instance, the various types of tasty liver — duck, pork, monkfish — or how incredibly delicious crispy pigs' ears and trotters can be when prepared right. There's even something about the more unctuous organ meats, like kidneys and tripe, that appeals to those down with the funk. Chitterlings, or chitlins, as they're more fondly referred to down South, simply isn't one of those things.

Prepared, as you may know, from the intestines of a pig, chitlins have the distinct reputation of smelling pervasively foul before, during, and after cooking. Some even leave the house, relying on those with stronger stomachs to finish the job.

Beyond that, no matter how "clean" they look when you buy them, chitlins must be turned inside out and picked over by hand or scrubbed with a brush to remove the last bits of gristle, undigested swill and... well, they're intestines. Use your imagination. That having been done, however, your chitlins are ready to cook.

Traditionally, the intestines are stewed with aromatics and peppers for several hours as it does, in fact, take that long to get them tender, and served with cider vinegar and hot sauce. The finished product can also be battered and deep-fried (okay, now you're talking).

We're glad there are folks out there who find the soul in this food, such as the tens of thousands of people who travel to Salley, South Carolina each year for Chitlin Strut. The good people who run this bizarre food festival turn out over 100,000 pounds of the chewy stuff for iron-stomached, eager diners from around the country.

Gross thing to eat? Most certainly, but 75,000 chitlin fans can't be wrong.