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Mama's Extreme Soul Food

    When I was a little girl, I remember Mama cooking the most elaborate, exquisite meals, but sometimes, she would venture into what I call the �extreme soul food� zone. This was a place where real soul food aficionados, people from the back woods of Mississippi or Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies could appreciate. The squeamish of stomach need not apply. Squirrel, raccoon or �coon, rabbit, goat, hog maws, pig feet, and chitterlings or as we called them, KY�s or Kentucky oysters were just some of the delicacies Mama would cook. I remember on New Years, the sickening smell of a hogs head made me nauseous.

    One instance involving KY�s clearly comes to mind. I was seven, and Tammy was five. Mama told us that if we ate KY�s, then we would have to help clean them. We had to stand in chairs because we were too short to reach the sink. Basically, we would pre-clean them before she did the fine cleaning necessary to ensure a favorable dining experience. If you know anything about KY�s, you know that they are pig intestines and cleaning them involve a very smelly undertaking. When they cook, they smell up the whole house. An old wives tale suggests that if you put a whole potato in the pot while they cook, that they won�t stink. That�s a lie. They still stink.

    I picked up an extraordinary long piece and attempted to pull the fat and crap from the edible part just like Mama showed me. After doing this for several minutes and being grossed out beyond words, I jumped down from my chair and told Mama quite plainly, �Mama, if I have to clean KY�s to eat them, then I guess that I won�t eat them anymore.� She gave me one of her looks as I bounded up the stairs to wash off the nasty smell that still clung to me.

    Mama�s demand that Tammy and I clean the KY�s bordered on child abuse. I wonder if CPS would have removed us for that cruel and unusual punishment. I�m sure that that experience is the reason I need therapy now. I guess that my palate was not sophisticated enough to appreciate the rustic quality and subtle unique layers that dishes like KY�s had. God, I loved my Mama and most of her cooking, but her extreme soul food was more than I could take.

    � 2005 Denise R. Black