Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Boil Them Cabbage Down" and "Chitlin Time"

For most of his adult life, Andrew Jackson lived in east Tennessee, where mountaineers with banjos and fiddles sang foot-tapping tunes about common frontier foods. Today, you can still hear some of these old tunes, like “Jimmy Crack Corn” and “When it’s Chitlin Time in Cheatham County.”

“Boil Them Cabbage Down” is another classic folk song played with a fiddle. Some historians say that the origins of this song can be traced back to those Africans who were brought to the southern states as slaves. According to this theory, some "Africans in Niger played primitive instruments that resembled the fiddle, guitar, and banjo, so when the Africans were brought to the United States, they found the fiddle to be a familiar instrument.”

Although the precise origins of this tune will likely always remain a mystery, it is deeply rooted in American folk history and has been recorded by such popular folk singers as Pete Seeger. Here are some of the lyrics:

Boil them cabbage down
Went up on the mountain
just to give my horn a blow
Thought I heard my true love say
Yonder comes my beau

Boil them cabbage down
Turn them hoecakes round
The only song that I can sing
is Boil them Cabbage Down...

For those of you who don’t know, chitlins are the intestines of hogs. To maximize profits, slave owners would usually feed their slaves in the cheapest manner possible. After slaughtering a hog, the best cuts of meat were reserved for the owner's use while the remains (snouts, ears, neck bones, and feet) were given to the slaves to eat.

Today, chitlins are still considered a delicacy in the south. Still, I’m guessing that some of you might not want to eat chitlins, or boiled cabbage for that matter, but you might enjoy this simple recipe for Sauteed Cabbage from Ina Garten

1 small head white cabbage, including outer green leaves (2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in half and, with the cut-side down, slice it as thinly as possible around the core, as though you were making coleslaw. Discard the core.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and begins to brown. Season to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!