Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Livermush's time to shine

Liver pudding (aka livermush) samples, courtesy of Neese's, at the N.C. State Fair.

This is it. When the Democratic National Convention arrives (and even beforehand) the world will be looking at Charlotte. What better time for this city to embrace its true, unique and authentic culinary heritage?

No, I'm not talking about vinegary barbecue (as today's New York Times article reports). The Times fell for the spin. Vinegary barbecue is a North Carolina culinary heritage but is not at all unique to Charlotte or the greater Charlotte metro region. (Related note: a small squabble has broken out among barbecue fans over whether Charlotte has any great barbecue restaurants. Some say Bill Spoon's on South Boulevard. Others favor Bubba's off I-77 north, and some contend Mac's has the best. Regardless, none has the fame and national following of places such as Lexington BBQ No. 1, Wilber's in Goldsboro, the Skylight Inn in Ayden, Bridges (both of 'em) in Shelby, or even Stamey's in Greensboro.

What does Charlotte have that the world does not? We have livermush. Don't turn up your nose.

If you treasure authentic roots foods, livermush is ours. Why not celebrate that instead of acting ashamed? In Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis' livermush magnum opus from 2000 (alas, I couldn't find a link) she quotes John Egerton, the Nashville-based author of the authoritative guidebook "Southern Food." "I don't ever remember seeing a dish called livermush anyplace else [outside of North Carolina],' he said. "And I hope never to see it again." Bah!

Livermush even has a listing in Wikipedia. That page takes you to a 2004 Christian Science Monitor article on livermush. And here's a nice roundup from October, by Andrea Weigl.

Weigl makes it sound as if livermush is an all-over-N.C. thing. It isn't. Go to most regular-Joe breakfast places in Charlotte and this region – I mean places where menus offer biscuits and grits and sausage patties and other normal breakfast food – you will see livermush on the menu. Or maybe they'll call it liver pudding. True, too many chain-type places owned by out-of-town corporations do not offer livermush. That's their loss, and their lost business.

Go roughly 80 miles in any direction from Charlotte you aren't likely to see livermush on the menu – not in Asheville, not in Columbia, not in Fayetteville, not in Raleigh. Maybe, if you're lucky, you can buy it at a grocery store. I had my first livermush when I lived in Fayetteville, but only because Charlotte native David McKnight kept telling me to try it and told me how you just fry it up in a pan. I did. And it was quite tasty. Crunchy edges, with a soft interior, not too heavy on the liver, either. When I spent the 2007-08 year living in Cambridge, Mass., I asked Charlotte visitors to please bring livermush. Did you know it freezes nicely?

Until four or five years ago Charlotte had its own livermush manufacturer, Jamison's. They stopped making it, though Ronnie Jamison told Purvis last summer they had contracted with "a company in the mountains" to make it. Another well-known brand is Guilford County-based Neese's, which claims liver pudding and livermush are different. Mack's is made in Shelby, about 40 miles west of Charlotte and possibly the livermush epicenter of the world. I was in a Shelby convenience store recently and noticed three different brands, two of them locally made. In a convenience store! Shelby of course has its Livermush Expo every year. The 2011 Livermush Expo will be Oct. 22 at Court Square in uptown Shelby.)
So please, if you're a proud Charlottean bragging to out-of-town pols or pundits or journalists, remember what our real roots food is. And, like those green eggs and ham, if you have not tried it – you should.


Anonymous said...

Mary, so right you are!!! I was formally introduced to livermush by my native husband who was regularly served livermush by his mountian-bred grandmother. After 20 years of trying, I still cannot fry it to perfection like he can. Many people also do not realize that livermush is much healthier than any other breakfast meat choice. As for restaurants, Eddie's Place serves up a pretty good slab.
Oh, and as for did Mac's even enter the recent discussions on BBQ??? I've had it and it was fairly good but just not in the same catagory as Lex, Bridges, etc.

Anonymous said...

You think we could bring in a mobile Krispy Kreme for the convention? Seeing as how we don't have one here anymore!

Anonymous said...

IT's time for Shelby to shine!!

Anonymous said...

Used to stop by Jamison's on Lawyers Rd and by direct-YUM-YUM, it was good. There is also another brand from Shelby, JENKIN'S Liver Mush that is very good and sold in HArris Teeter.

Anonymous said...

Its called scrapple in Philly and eaten with eggs and toast.

Scootland Economics said...

ugh, this stuff is good, i love livermush

-Scootland Economics

Anonymous said...

Fresh fall scrapple with maple syrup on a medium brown crust, two eggs, and new cinnamon apple butter on hot biscuits. Livermush at Hillbilly's in West Jefferson is also great stuff!

Brenda said...

To all our Northern friends, Livermush is not Scrapple. Do not
insult livermush. The best livermush is dropped in the deep fat fryer. That gives it the crispy outside and the mush inside. Yum, Yum. And, I know for a fact that Mary eats livermush every Saturday morning.

Anonymous said...

Been in Charlotte all my life and still cant bring myself to try something named livermush

Anonymous said...

"When the Democratic National Convention arrives (and even beforehand) the world will be looking at.."

$4 a gallon gas. And they won't be happy.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte has 2 things

1. livermush
2. Democrats who vote for Republicans because they don't really believe in the liberal platform.

Glenda said...

Jamison's was the very best. I've been looking for it in grocery stores for the past 5 years and now you tell me why I can't find it. So sad that they went out of business. I would love to know if and when they contract with someone to make it again. Jud's Restaurant in Monroe can cook livermush to perfection!