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Chitlins: Pasadena's Hog Killing Dinners

There are people who wait all year for the Hog Killing dinners at Pasadena's Calvary CME, a church fundraiser that sees a fairly large number of pigs off to their reward in heaven. It's kind of expensive, but your $18 goes to a good cause, and the Styrofoam cartons are packed with exquisitely cooked collard greens, black eyed peas, and the sweetest roast yams that have ever made it onto a fork. The sock it to me cake, traditionally sweetened with 7-up, is a few cents more, I think, but worth it.

But mostly what the Hog Killing dinners are about are the chitlins, huge kettles of chitlins, that are mercifully cooked in a kitchen that doesn't happen to be your own. The church sold 4,000 pounds - that's two tons - of chitlins this year, engendering both halitosis and joy over much of the western San Gabriel Valley.

So what do you do when a friend - I'll call him Jervey Tervalon - shows up with the Calvary CME chitlins on a Saturday afternoon? You invite him in, break out a keg of hot sauce and a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon, and work your way through the squiggly grey masses of joy. If you've only had Chinese fried pig intestines, know that these are not they. They've been hosed down, soaked in lye, hosed down again, and simmered for hours, but the deceptively mild taste has nothing to do with the crunchy Cantonese things - there is a backtaste to them that goes on for days, and the discreet chitlin-bourbon burps will undoubtedly take over your afternoon. The combination is not recommended in the hours before a hot date, although the bioactive compounds thus induced have got to be formidable. If you have no interest in formidable compounds, the Calvary CME will sell you turkey legs instead, but unfortunately, you're going to have to wait until next year.


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