Food, Travel

Listen here! 

There are two questions I will without a doubt ask when a hotel room has been booked for me. #1: do they have breakfast? #2: is there a gym? Breakfast is important to me. It’s (as we all know) the most important meal of the day. And, to me, the rest of my day hinges on the perfect carb to protein to fat ratio found in the bowl of bran flakes I eat every morning. The inconvenience of being at a hotel and having to go out to find breakfast is annoying. I don’t ask for much, just cereal, milk, and coffee. Same with the gym, I just need a treadmill or a bike, or elliptical and an hour or so of uninterrupted activity and I’m set.

Mississippi is a different world, in case you’ve never been. They have different customs, a different accent, a whole different way of life. It’s a state rich with history and for that, I love it. One of my favorite books is based in the Belhaven neighborhood where my aunt lives. This area of Jackson has seen so much change over the last fifty years and you can feel it.

Having been here a few times before, I’ve seen some of the sights, checked out the local landmarks and institutions. But, there was one I hadn’t made it to yet. The Big Apple Inn.

This place is located in the part of town that used to be known as “little Harlem.” And they are famous for one thing: the pig ear sandwich. Which I had to try.

As I’ve said before, I marvel at the way our ancestors (and even people of our day) learned to utilize every part of an animal. One of my life principles is waste not, want not, which I’ve been accused more than once of taking to an extreme. But, I do think we learn so much by observing how to get the most use from the resources we’ve been given. So, the pig ear sandwich. Historically, slaves in the South were given the remains of the animal after it had been butchered and the “choice” meat had been cut away. This practice created a base for a lot of southern cuisine that we now have today. Go into a grocery store in the South and you’ll see pieces of the past displayed on shelves in the form of pickled pigs feet, snouts, and chittlins.

Most people would automatically dismiss such things as gross. And, in a lot of cases, they’d be correct, it’s not the most appetizing thing to think of eating. But, to me, this is an age old testament of taking the best of a bad situation and making something of it. So, if you view it that way (remember: perspective is everything, ya’ll!) a pig ear sandwich isn’t all that bad. And, it really wasn’t. It was tender and I’d say most similar to bologna. They pressure cook the ears, so they are easy to eat. And I’m told, they go through nearly 900 ears a day. They served it with lettuce and mustard, so it really just tasted like most any other sandwich I’ve had. The white piece in the middle is the cartilage of the ear, which you would expect to be chewy. Not so, they’ve got this down to a science.

Sandwiches really aren’t my thing, so it wasn’t something I’d eat a lot of, but the ear was good. And, the steady line of customers coming in and out of this literal hole in the wall proved it. Taking a step outside our perception of palatable is necessary sometimes. That one step can take you to a lot of really neat places you never expected to go. As they say: never stop exploring! Oh, and never pass up a good breakfast.


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