Fred Pennington’s story illustrates traditional foodways lost to Lake Monroe and to increased public health supervision. Pennington was a proud butcher whose “country-killed meat” was popular throughout Monroe County.
For Pennington, there was no better taste than home-butchered meat, cured in a backyard smokehouse. He describes the butchering process (“scalded, innards took out and what not”) and then the various curing methods (“pickled, salted”) leading to the distinct taste of country meat.
Even mama’s own cooking could not elevate the taste of slaughter-house butchered and frozen meat. As he says in the clip below
if…Mom’d had ‘em cooked like she did for supper and she’d said, “Now shut your eyes,” or “I’m gonna put a little blindfold over you.” “Taste this and see if you know what it is.” I wouldn’t of guessed ribs.
Traditional country butchering did not last much longer after the opening of Lake Monroe. Pennington was visited by the county health inspector and told that his traditional foodway was illegal and hazardous to public health.
Pennington rebuffed the charge that his process was unhygienic by explaining his snout-to-tail process. He collected the hog hair and blood and reused them in his garden, the hair as a fertilizer and the blood to keep pests away. While this sort of practice is praised today, and similar meat is sold for much more at present-day specialty butcher shops, rural people like Pennington keenly felt the loss of what they’d always done.