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By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

There is nothing better to make a person feel great than to have a good breakfast the first thing in the morning.

It just starts the day off right.

Now I am not talking about a cup of yogurt or a banana and a slice of whole wheat bread. I am talking about a traditional Southern breakfast. You know, bacon or country ham or sausage, eggs, hash browns, maybe a serving of grits or a slice of garden-fresh tomato – and a couple of nice hot biscuits with cream gravy.

A meal like that will not only stick to your ribs, but it will put the wind in your sails, make you right with the Lord and keep you regular.

If everyone in America had a breakfast like that every morning, just think what we could get accomplished.

Submitted photo
Every farm once had a few pigs – and that is how they made their way to the breakfast table as sausage, bacon or ham. These pigs were part of the Lauderdale farm.

This month we will look at that good old-fashioned country breakfast – the kind your grandmother used to make for your grandfather every morning. The kind we no longer have the time to make and can only find at restaurants.

The pioneers who settled in Middle Tennessee, our forefathers, had to raise what they ate. There was no shopping at the local grocery store.

And, it evolved that our breakfast reflected what we raised on the farm. A little hog meat, eggs, corn pone or biscuits, potatoes.

We will look at each of those items in this month’s articles, starting with why, here in Tennessee, we eat pork for breakfast!

It is because the climate and landscape of our state favor the lowly pig. And the farmer didn’t let any of the pig go to waste. That’s why it is said that the country family ate every part of the pig except the oink.

Unlike cows, pigs can forage in the forest or field and literally feed themselves. They are omnivorous – they eat anything!

In the early days of the pioneers, a man could let his pigs run amok and only gather them up in the fall. Over the previous year a baby pig could have fattened up on the plentiful mast of the forest. The mast would be the tree nuts found on the forest floor, particularly the nuts of the American chestnut tree. Even in winter snow, the pig could use its tough snout to dig down to the piles of nuts on the ground.

Cattle take more care. They have to have grass or hay. A farmer had to raise that hay, cut it and put it up in a barn for winter food. A Southern farmer always kept a few cows for milk. Large-scale cattle ranching wasn’t possible.

But it was the keeping of the meat that made the biggest difference.

Beef can’t be cured as easy as pork.

If a man killed a steer, he would have to eat it all in a day or two or the meat would go bad. The pioneer had no way to refrigerate the meat.

The lowly pig, however, can be butchered and his meat salted down and hung in the family smokehouse.

The old smokehouse deserves an article by itself.

There, a family kept its bacon, sausage and hams. A smokehouse full of hams meant a family was prosperous and ready for the year to come.

Country ham, with its salty taste, is that way by necessity. Salt kept the ham from going bad, or spoiling. And a good ham could be salted, smoked and kept for a year. In fact, some people claimed that anything less than a year in the smokehouse meant a poor-tasting ham.

When the pig is what you have hanging in your smoke house, then pig is what you have for breakfast.

It is interesting that we raise pigs but eat pork.

The difference in words goes back to old England and when the French, under William the Conqueror, invaded merry ole’ England in 1066. The ancient Anglo-Saxons raised pigs and ate pigs. The French raised pork and ate pork.

Somehow, we made the transition to keep the Anglo-Saxon term for the animal and began using the French term for the meat.

But any way you look at it, in the South we eat bacon, sausage or country ham for breakfast. That’s as sure as the sun comes up every morning and the fly lights on the butter.