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Liver & Lights: 1942

Liver & Lights: 1942

February 1942. Detroit, Michigan. "Sign in a grocery window in the Negro district: 'chitlins and hog maws'." Not to mention Taystee Bread. Medium-format nitrate negative by Arthur Siegel for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Michigan Avenue at Roosevelt

This was easily found and almost certainly the same location. Michigan Avenue is my favorite road - Detroit to Chicago.

No Haggis

Alas, the importation of Haggis from Scotland is still banned due to the lung/lights content. There are imitations made, without the lungs, but they taste like imitations.



My dad, who was reared on a farm and sold gasoline and diesel fuel to farmers for 40 years, really raked it in when "hog killin'" time came around. We all loved country ham and tenderloin, but he really enjoyed chittlin's and haslets (liver and lungs) he'd get from the farmers. He wasn't the of the race that would refer to "soul food", but I know this stuff meant the same thing to him.

Re: Lights

"Lights" (i.e. lungs or other organs) cannot be sold raw, nor can they be used to manufacture food items in the United States; however they can be part of a shipped food that has already been cooked and imported to the U.S., such as Scottish Haggis.

The Bell System

Couldn't help noticing the Bell Telephone sign hanging off the side of the building. I would say there was a coin operated telephone in the store that allowed many of their customers to make as well as receive calls. A telephone in 1942 in any working class or poor neighborhood was a luxury that then became scarce during the war years. My family did not get a phone until the early 1950s. I once asked my mother about it and she said we really didn't need the phone because very few of our extended family or friends had one anyway. There was a phone in the candy store on the ground floor of the tenement and in an emergency the owner would send someone to tell us to come down. Those calls rarely brought good news.

Correctly Apostrophized.

Chit'lin's is a shortened spelling of Chitterlings.

Had by my Dad

A '36 Ford, which he sold before I managed to wreck it, unlike his next two cars (please see my profile). His Ford's winter grille cover was a rubberized canvas with several zippered panels that provided various levels of protection depending on the temp. The one shown here is a bit different but does have two panels open.

No one's mentioned tripe yet but in the same vein (sorry), long before I was ruining my father's cars he and I used to listen to boxing matches on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports on the kitchen radio while we munched on pickled pigs' feet. Gnaw might be the better word. Today when I walk pass the jars of that, um, delicacy in stores I look at their jellied, pink mass and realize that once upon a time I was brave, very brave.

Some of It is Pretty Good

I would agree that much of this food was not meant for human consumption. However, if you cut calves kidneys in half lengthwise, season and grill in the oven, they are delicious. Chitlins can also be pretty good as long as they aren't overly salted, which is often the case. In either case, enjoy these delicacies with a side of greens cooked with a little fatback. Yum!

Hog Fries & Maws

Hog fries were the parts that were cut from the young male pigs. They were soaked in water over night, then sliced, breaded or battered, and fried. Some people made sandwiches of them. Hog maws referred to the lining of the pig's stomach. One popular way to prepare that was stuffed with sausage and potatoes and sometimes cabbage. It was baked, whole, and sliced.

I have a recipe for pig's liver and lights, from The Black Family Reunion cookbook. It calls for slicing the liver and lungs and layering the slices with potatoes, bacon, onions, fresh parsley and sage. Other recipes include stewed kidneys, several for pig's feet, and chicken feet stew. I'd be game to try everything, with the possible exception of the last one.

African American women took the parts that others didn't want, and skillfully turned them into tasty and nutritious meals for their families. I, for one, am in awe of them!


I agree with Vintagetvs, not one thing I would care to eat that's advertised on the windows, except for the Taystee bread. Let's make toast!

Taystee Bread

Was baked in Flushing, Queens, NY - not far from where I was born. Prepared there until 1992, when it was bought over by Stroehmann Bakeries and moved to Pennsylvania. This NY Times article details its demise:

Good Bread, too!

Just don't

If liver and lights made you uncomfortable, don't google Hog Fries.

Winter Front

That '36 Ford has a partial winter front on the grill to help with engine warm-up, a common accessory at the time.

Beyond Prince Albert

Does the person who answers the phone also have pig's feet? I mean, are his hooves cloven?

In a can

It's Prince ALBERT!

Offal or Awesome?

My Mom was born Italian, in northern California, in 1909.

When she was a youngster, an aunt, uncle, and cousin immigrated to join the family. Grandma sent the cousin into town (a mile or two), to pick up a grocery and meat order.

Dino came back with the order, but also dragging a gunnysack as big as he was, shouting, "Mama, look what they were throwing away!!" Full of the finest treasures - kidneys, hearts, tripe, and probably yes, lungs.

It's all in one's perspective.

I would starve there.

Not one thing I would care to eat.

Pretty far North

for a selection of Southern vittles.

[Followed the workforce. - tterrace]


Another name for lungs, usually calf. If I'm not mistaken they are no longer considered edible in the United States and cannot be offered for sale.

My, My, MY, My, My!

Making a virtue of necessity, traditional soul food -- like all cuisines particular to the poor -- took parts rejected by the privileged and prepared them in a delicious but deadly way. Here we see advertised the elements of many fatally alluring dishes, including that key ingredient, lard. The smoking tobacco seems almost superfluous.

Of course, soul food had many rivals in that regard. I fondly, though with a shudder, recall my Pennsylvaina German grandmother frying pork chops in lard and, in memory at any rate, mighty tasty they were!

1936 Ford

Nosing its way in.

Say, do you have Prince William in a can?

Let him out, he can't breathe! I also searched on "liver and lights", and now I regret having done so as it is very near dinner time.

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