Monday, March 31, 2008

Blight and delight in downtown Jackson
I doubt it would make a silk purse, but it does make a passable sandwich
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

This past weekend I attended a conference at the Edison Walthall Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi. The conference was good, but the once elegant hotel, located almost within spitting distance of the governor's mansion and state capitol, has really gone to seed. I've stayed in a lot of lousy places through the years, but even I was shocked at how poorly the Edison Walthall is maintained and managed.

Anyway, a friend at the conference, knowing my proclivity for off-the-wall foods, recommended that I try the pig ear sandwich at the Big Apple Inn, a soul food joint on Farish Street just around the corner from the Edison Walthall. My lunch at the conclusion of the conference was covered in the conference cost (which was generously paid for the Mississippi District of the Assemblies of God), so I elected to eat a club sandwich there at the Edison Walthall first.

"I'm looking forward to trying the pig ear sandwich, but I want to fill my belly first in case I don't like it," I told my friend.

"Oh, don't worry! You'll like it," he assured me.

After lunch, another friend and I walked over to the Big Apple Inn. Although it really wasn't far from the hotel, at first I wondered whether I had lost my way. Farish Street looked abandoned. No, worse than abadoned. It looked like a war zone -- and believe me, I know what a war zone looks like! Maybe worse than a war zone --like a scene from some apocalyptic movie. On the left side of the street we walked past a row of buildings with every door and window smashed, leaving the rubble-littered interior on display to passers by. Drops of dried blood on the sidewalk formed a trail leading to a thick congealed puddle in one of the entryways of the ruin. Not a soul was stirring on the street. I doubted the directions my friend had given me, and even if he was right, surely the place had long since shut down. But we eventually found the restaurant, heavily fortified with iron but still inviting with its bright red sign and awning.

Inside there was a friendly young lady behind the counter and a couple of kids running around and playing among the bright orange and yellow plastic chairs. The menu on the wall listed the following: smoke sausage, pig ear, hamburger, hot dog, and bolonga -- all one dollar, tax included; hot tamales -- $5 for a half dozen or $8.50 for a dozen; pops, chips, and two kinds of beer.

I ordered my sandwich and got a grape soda from the pop machine to wash it down, which seemed somehow the appropriate accompaniment to a pig ear sandwich, but I don't know why. Everything was available in "hot, mild, or no hot." I chose hot. After all, I'm from South Louisiana. My mama put Tabasco in my baby bottle!

So how was it? It was ok. It was midly spicy but not unbearably so (at least not for a South Louisianian). The bun reminded of the ones they use for those little Krystal burgers we used to call "gut grenades" when I was in college. It stuck to the paper when I opened it. The texture of the pig ear was a bit gelatinous. Overall, I would say that it's something you eat for the experience, not the taste. But it wasn't bad.

The restaurant is located at 509 Farish St. For another blogger's experience with the same restaurant, click here.

I picked up a fascinating hitchhiker today. But that story will have to wait for another post. Stay tuned!


Rebecca said...

totally gross, Mark. I did like the story, though. I am waiting not so patiently for the hitchhiker story.

Rachel said...

You are a brave man, Mark.