Many African Americans have passed down the tradition of eating Chitterlings during Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. For some families, their holiday is not complete without the intestines of a hog on the menu. A number of blacks in the United States also drink Pot Liquor which is the liquid that is left in the pot once greens have been cooked. What may not be widely known is the origin of these curious habits which both have their roots in an ugly aspect of American slavery. Although they worked hard from sunup to sundown enslaved Africans were not fed well.

In order to have the strength for their grueling day's work, they had to ingest that which their masters would not.

Hungry slaves had no choice but to eat chitterlings

The first time I heard about the curious origins of hog intestines was from Ms. Margaret Thompson who was my 5th grade teacher at Lincoln Terrace elementary school in Roanoke, Va. She told the class that the chitterlings were the part of the body that excrement went through. Ms. Thompson said no matter how well the guts were cleaned there was always a chance that feces were left on them. She added that plantation owners ate the best part of the pork and the slaves had to eat what was left in order not to starve.

The book "Jubilee" by Margaret Walker chronicles the life of Walker's grandmother, "Vyry" who shared how often slaves did not have enough food to eat and had to resort to any means necessary just to have enough food to survive.

After the pork was killed enslaved African Americans roasted it for their masters and the guts would be thrown out. Resourceful slaves learned how to further clean the hog intestines and cook them so their families would have sustenance. It was a matter of necessity, and this tradition of eating chitterlings has been passed down and continued through the generations.

Pot Liquor is actually a healthy tonic

The plantation owners were pretty cruel to expect full days work all the while knowing the slaves were not getting enough to eat. Because they were resourceful, they found several curious ways to supplement their meager food allotments. In addition to chitterlings which are high in unhealthy fat, the enslaved Africans and their descendants also made use of pot liquor which is the broth that remains in the pot after the meal has been prepared.

The most common form of pot liquor comes from kale greens, and it retains many nutrients. By drinking the juice that is left over in the pot the slaves were obtaining nutritious benefits from vitamins and minerals, Unlike hog intestines which are considered to be a reason many so African Americans have hypertension and Type II Diabetes, drinking the broth from greens is actually pretty healthy. During the holidays a number of blacks in the USA utilize pot liquor as a way to clean their system and keep the digestive tract flowing smoothly.