Potlikker

I am full. I am full as a tick.

Tonight was the Potlikker Film Festival, put on in Chattanooga by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Oh, my lord. There are films – short ones because the attention span at the grazing tables do not allow for long-winded ones. We saw a wonderful film about Rodney Scott, a South Carolina barbecue man who does it the right way – all wood, whole hog, do not bother him until it’s done and you will know when that is when Rodney tells you. And there was a hilarious film about Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville. Prince’s hot chicken will blow the top of your head clean off, which is personally too hot for me but Prince’s has legions of loyal devotees. And, finally, a film about Will Harris, who is a fourth-generation cattle farmer in Georgia who produces cattle the way nature intended – free range and fed only on grass and hay. The man ends his day in the pasture with his dog, Possum, and a bottle of wine that he drinks without benefit of the glass. I love this man. I want to sit in his pasture with him.

So on to the food. We begin with tiny wedges of cornbread and a shot glass of potlikker, the liquid left over from cooking greens. It is ambrosial. Then it’s on to tacos with heritage pulled pork, from pigs who happily (for a time) live at the Sequatchie Cove Farm. and Riverview Farm. I load mine up with the pork, white onion and cilantro – traditional Mexican style and, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy tacos.

Then it’s on to hot chicken! But not the head-exploding kind from Prince’s. This has a gentle heat right below the crust, which is shatteringly crisp and utterly delicious. I eat an entire chicken leg as though I have just ended a 30-day hunger strike. It is a testament to the Southern Foodways Alliance that a room full of fairly upscale people are employing multiple napkins to wipe away the shards of glistening crispy chicken skin from their well-manicured gullets. I am among these people and I hope no one notices. Or at least informs me that I have bits and pieces of skin clinging to my chin.

But I have to say the tour de force of this event is the bacon sausage from Link 41 cured meats.

Bacon sausage! How inspired! I am embarrassed to tell you that I stealthed back to their table nine or ten times and hoped they didn’t recognize me as I stabbed yet another sausage link out of the pot.

This was supposed to be a tasting event and I turned it into an eating event. Shame on me. I nearly fell asleep during the films. But this is why I love the South. Informed, perhaps eccentric, people producing superior local food. Guys who chop more wood than you’d need to build a house just to smoke a hog. Guys who end each day with a bottle of wine in a cow pasture. These are my people. Or, perhaps, I’m theirs.

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