To Love A Pork Chop

Lee Foote
3 min readMar 1, 2023

I’m blaming southern writer Rick Bragg for creating an aching discontent in my palate. His descriptions of fried pork cracklins, etouffee, and andouille sausage got my fervor up and made me itchy for something to eat that would remind me of who I am and where I came from. He sort of got my tongue tied around my eye tooth so I couldn’t see what I needed. Yet I knew it had to be something southern, likely involving a pig, a cornfield and some hot oil.

I was raised on Louisiana soul food. Even the large dark women cooking for our schools knew that collard greens needed bacon grease and cornbread sticks to be right and each Friday’s fried fish benefitted from a little red pepper in the batter. Dipping south in my state we fetched up crabs, flounder and crawfish; north Louisiana offered sweet potatoes, slow-cooked brisket with crisp Saline Parish watermelons sweet enough to rival a Nehi bellywasher. Travel west across the Sabine River and we bumped into succulent Tex-mex tamales and shredded pork al Pastor that would make your eyes water; moving East into Mississippi meant hickory-smoked BBQ, boiled peanuts and gritty mustard greens along kudzu-draped roadside stands.

The only problem is that I now live in the highly civilized and polite world of West Coast, Canada- a four-day drive from my food mecca. Here, I struggle to complain though because we are surrounded by fresh salmon, local leafy greens, Sushi that rivals Tokyo’s, Okanagan wines & craft breweries in abundance and every Eastern fruit and vegetable from granadilla to durian. Yet, despite a local culture that desperately consumes all sea life and unlikely animal parts , I craved the pungent, lardy, salty, umami of Southern US food combinations like giblet gravy, jalapeno cornbread, crab gumbo, or cheese grits.

Though the food nostalgia was real, I didn’t know exactly what food touchstone I needed at this moment, thus, I went in search and found some ingredients that would take me home; beautiful inch-thick pork loin steaks. Earlier, knowing a craving had been building, I had fruitlessly ransacked the markets for hominy grits and had resorted to ordering an overnight delivery of a 10 lb bag from Amazon (yeah, I know).

So that should scratch my itch, but how to combine?

I lovingly rubbed the spices into that chop like a sadistic Thai masseuse — the smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and brown sugar permeated the white fat marbling the meaty chop. Then, before I gave it a name and spank it on the butt, I hit it a hard lick in a cast iron skillet with near-smoking temp avocado oil — a modern concession to burn points and carcinogens. This provided a spicy crisped and peppery sweet crust, yet with a raw chop center.

Now I know that modern hog raising has erased the risks of Trichinella parasites but there is another intestinal parasite called pork tapeworm that can be problematic and even lead to epilepsy. I don’t want a grand mall gut worm. I have never seen pork tartar either so others must agree. Besides, pork can be both cooked through and tender juicy. Here I broke with tradition and relinquished my beautifully crusted chop to seven minutes in an Instapot pressure cooker with a cup of chicken bouillion while I boiled Quaker white grits to the perfect consistency. The other advantage here is I had a pork chop gravy for the grits.

Then I got a particularly sharp knife reserved for meat cutting and sliced pork pads thinmint-thick, dosed the juicy white meat with a pepper dash, balanced them on a bed of gravy-soaked grits, then forked them into my South-lonesome mouth. I closed my eyes and it was like walking barefooted on warm wet sycamore leaves. I knew that even if I couldn’t ever fully go home again, the improvised products of my childhood were right here dribbling on the front of my sweatshirt, less than an inch from my happy heart.

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Lee Foote

Southerner by birth, Northerner by choice, Casual person by nature.