Getting mushy here in Dixie

Stephen HarrisBack in the Hometown

September 17, 2012

I was invited to dinner one time by a family who had come from up North, and I marveled at the wonderful holiday spread before me. Indeed, the northern dishes did look different from those I was used to, but it all looked yummy nonetheless.

In the buffet line I came to a little glass dish containing some dark spread accompanied with fancy crackers, and it looked foreign to me. So before I took some I asked what was it.

Liver pate, I was told. I asked for details, and as best as I can remember they said it was pure liver pureed with a bit of seasoning. So I asked if it was like livermush.

Bad idea. The room of Yankees froze, like in that old E.F. Hutton stockbroker TV commercial in which everyone in the room stops to hear stock advice. (Slogan: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”) They asked what was livermush. I tried to describe it.

Yuck, they collectively said. They acted like livermush was the worst-sounding thing in the world.

So I tried the Yankees’ liver pate. Yuck.

We do get some curious notions in our heads sometimes. I was at Myrtle Beach one time and thought I’d wile away a couple of quiet, sunny afternoon hours at the three-par, southside golf course with the ocean view.

The place was crowded, foursomes were waiting in line to tee off, I was flying solo on a short weekend getaway, and they asked if I would mind playing the course with a couple. I didn’t.

They paired me with a retired husband and wife from Buffalo, N.Y. The gentleman reminded me of the late football coach Joe Paterno, complete with still-dark hair, horn-rim glasses and that funny nasal accent. The couple was friendly enough.

Suddenly, while we were sitting on a bench near the middle of the course, the gentlemen piped up in a low, weak voice, “Do people here really eat ‘possum?” He appeared dead serious.

The couple from up North had been watching too many episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, apparently.

I admit to being tongue-tied by the question. Too bad I didn’t have with me one of those gag-gift cans labeled ‘possum (potted meat inside) to whip out of my pocket and give him.

No, I didn’t mention livermush.

I can’t say I was raised on livermush here in the hometown. At my house livermush was a second-tier sandwich. Once in a while Mom would get some at the store and fry it out.

It was OK for a change of pace. But livermush languished in the minor leagues as hamburgers and hot dogs were the primary sandwich fare at my house.

Grandma, however, loved livermush sandwiches at the old Smithey’s lunch counter in downtown Elkin. Smithey’s, a department store, operated in the present Rhythm On Main location.

Grandma lived alone, didn’t have a car, did not drive and lived a simple life. She did not have indoor plumbing. Grandma didn’t get out much, like that couple from Buffalo, N.Y., I’d say.

But one day, according to the story I once heard, my aunt took Grandma on a rare trip to town. Once there Grandma wanted a livermush sandwich from Smithey’s.

But Grandma found Smithey’s closed for some reason, so she went back to my aunt’s car and waited there for my aunt to return from shopping. Grandma would go no place else.

Since I’ve returned to the hometown, I’ve called livermush up to the majors. The reason is that I’ve found some great livermush right here in Elkin. I don’t do ads or endorsements so I won’t mention the name of Garry Sparks’ market downtown next to the river where I get my mildly seasoned livermush.

So I’ve added livermush to my regular rotation of hamburgers and barbecue for my bag lunches.

I find it curious that the town with the best barbecue, Shelby (sorry, Lexington), named its annual autumn downtown hoe-down the Livermush Expo, where they cook and sell it fresh on the street, set up crafts booths and have parades for kids and pets. It’s held in October.

Too bad Shelby and Marion, which has a livermush-themed street festival in June, beat Elkin to the punch on that one. I like pumpkins fine, but they’re not livermush.

I like my livermush fried well-done, with a crispy crust on the outside and still soft in the middle. You need a good, thick slice to get it like that.

I can take or leave the onions, but a good helping of cole slaw is required. Mustard is good but I won’t object if mayonnaise is substituted. No, I don’t fry it for breakfast.

Call me when lunch is ready.


Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.