Sunday, December 7, 2008

Livermush: Good Eatin'!

It's funny how some things you grew up with seem normal to you, but strike others as strange. Livermush is one of those things. I love it so much my mom usually makes a point of having some on hand to fry for breakfast when I'm home.

I've always known it was a distinctly southern thing, but imagine my surprise the first time I went to the grocery in Charleston and found no one had even heard of it. Not at Publix. (Okay, no surprise. They started in Florida, that geographically separated province of New York and Cuba.) Not at Bi-Lo. (A little more surprising, since this is a chain more restricted to the area of the south I think of as home.) But most surprisingly, not even at Piggly-Wiggly, which, really, even if it has spread to seventeen states, you'd think would proudly carry anything made from pig.

For the uninitiated, here's the Wikipedia entry on this "poor boy's pâté":

Livermush (or Liver Mush or Liver Pudding) is a Southern United States foodstuff composed of pig liver, head parts, and cornmeal. It is commonly spiced with pepper and sage. Vaguely similar to scrapple, livermush was most likely brought south through the Appalachian mountains by German settlers from Philadelphia. Livermush is colloquially known as poor man's or poor boy's pâté.

Shelby, North Carolina hosts an annual Livermush Exposition, which began in 1987 to celebrate the unique delicacy. In that year the Cleveland County Commissioners and the Shelby City Council passed resolutions proclaiming that "livermush is the most delicious, most economical and most versatile of meats." Other towns in North Carolina that have livermush festivals include Drexel and Marion. Sonnys Grill in Blowing Rock, NC is famous for its livermush [1]

It is commonly prepared by cutting a slice off of a prepared loaf and frying it with grease in a skillet until golden brown, much like you would Spam. At breakfast it would be served alongside grits and eggs. For lunch it can be made into a sandwich with mayonnaise or mustard, either fried as above, or left cold. As livermush's popularity rises, it is appearing as a primary ingredient in dishes such as omelette and pizza.

And for the literary-minded among you, Wikipedia included a link to a Christian Science Monitor article with this jewel:
Some of its fans enjoy publicizing the unusual meat. Jan Karon, author of a series of books set in fictional Mitford, N.C., has her characters eating livermush in almost every volume.
And finally, for even those who grew up with it, here's a great little video clip from Mark DiCarlo's Taste of America series, on a visit to Shelby, NC:

Bottom line for me? I'll be carrying "home" to Charleston at least a couple pounds of this poor boy's pâté every time I visit Mom and Dad from here on out.

That's all I've got for this morning. Time to go fry some livermush and scramble some eggs. Mmm mmm!