The Pig and the Pulpit

The pig and the pulpit. The risk of assuming.

My husband and I married in mid-life. We have a lot in common, and also some differences. The most obvious difference being that he is an African-American from the South and I am a Caucasian American from the North. A less significant difference being that he knew pulpitall about chitlins, and I had never heard of them. For those of you like me…chitlins are the intestines of pigs that are “cleaned” and cooked for human consumption. There’s a lot of history behind that tradition and here’s a taste.

“Chitlins, often spelled chitterlings, are a type of food made from pig intestines. In the US, they are a common soul food offering, though their cleaning and preparation can take a good deal of time. They are especially popular served during Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations among African American families. The origin of chitlins is from the various foods served to slaves during the winter. When hogs were slaughtered in the South, African Americans were often given the intestines, instead of the meat of the pig. This led to a gradual dependence on the food as a “treat” during the winter months. Post-slavery, chitlins continued as a beloved culinary tradition. Because chitlins are intestines, they have to be cleaned with extreme care. They can contain fecal matter, which can translate to ingesting numerous forms of bacteria including E. Coli, versinia, and salmonella. If chitlins are sold uncooked, they need to be cleaned, and hand picked of any remaining fecal matter. Guides on cooking chitlins often suggest boiling them for 5 minutes to sterilize them prior to preparing them. Chitlins can be added to stews or soups, and some people prefer them cooked and then deep-fried. When deep-fried, chitlins may be dipped in mustard, or other spicy condiments. Chitlins also are used for casings, meaning, before you reject the idea of chitlins, don’t forget if you’ve had sausages, you’ve eaten them.” wisegeek.com

I never imagined that people would desire to eat pig guts. I also never dreamed that in the African-American Church there would be a “pit” near the pulpit.

When we first met and I was still getting accustomed to his Kentucky accent, whenever my husband would reference a minister’s message he would say “the pulpit.” I, however, wasn’t hearing pulpit. His accent made it sound, to me, like “the pull pit.” I questioned myself each time he mentioned it, which was multiple times weekly as we were, at the time, “church shopping.” My best idea of what he meant was that in the African-American, Southern Baptist church there was some “pit,” like a baptismal that the preacher stood near…that I wasn’t seeing from my limited vantage point in the congregation. My doubt was magnified because this was my first exposure to the African-American church, which differed greatly in tone and process from the Caucasian church I’d grown up in. I just knew I had a lot to learn and assumed that “the pull pit” was one of them.

The day I understood that “the pull pit” was actually “the pulpit,” I was initially too embarrassed to even admit my misunderstanding.

Now just imagine if we had been communicating about something much more serious; like what to serve at Thanksgiving dinner, turkey legs or pig guts. Assumptions can be tricky at best, and dangerous at worst.

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