Pork is a symbol of progress and prosperity. That’s why New Year’s dinner traditionally includes pork. In the South, our New Year’s meal includes ham hocks, hog jowls, or fatback cooked with black-eyed peas and collards to give these vegetables a fabulous smoky flavor. They (and all other vegetables) are cooked in the fatty pork for hours until they are mushy and all minerals and nutrients have been completely cooked out of them. That’s the secret of southern cooking, and probably the reason the South leads the nation in potential candidates for “The Biggest Loser”.
In the old rural South, the pig was the major source of meat. Southern families were generally poor, and ate every part of the pig. It’s a practice many of us are starting to revisit due to heavy losses in our 401ks. If you’re not familiar with ham hocks, pig jowls, pickled pig’s feet or other southern delicacies, you need to pay a visit to the Southern grocery store chain, Piggly Wiggly. The Pig, as it is fondly known, was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 and is America’s first true self-service grocery store. The store was the first to incorporate shopping baskets, branded products, and checkouts at the front. Removing unnecessary clerks, creating elaborate aisle displays, and rearranging the store to force customers to view all of the merchandise were just some of the characteristics of the early Piggly Wiggly stores. This style became the standard for the modern supermarket, proving that the South’s reputation for clinging to tradition is not always accurate.
Every Southerner worth the name carries a PFC (Pig’s Favorite Customer) card on their key chain and owns at least one promotional T-shirt blazoned with the promotional slogan “I’m Big on the Pig”. That’s a slogan that could also be appropriate for Congress, based on the members’ long tradition of pork barrel spending. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them wearing these shirts when President Obama signs the stimulus bill.
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