by David Cecelski
First established in 1927, Hux Grocery in Rocky Mount is a shrine to chitterlings. Preparing, cleaning, and cooking pig intestines is just about all this little store does in a big way. The sign painted on the brick wall next to the parking lot says it all: “Hux Grocery—the Chitterling Capital.” You can buy chitterlings to take home or you can buy a take-out plate of chitterlings boiled, seasoned with a homemade red pepper and vinegar sauce, and served with two vegetables and white bread. When I was there earlier today, every customer in the store was there for chitterlings.
Hux’s has a few shelves of dry goods and several beer coolers, but the little store is devoted mainly to pig. There’s not even any chicken, beef, or lamb. And while the proprietors aim mainly to satisfy people’s cravings for chitterlings, they do appreciate other parts of the pig, too. There’s lots of side meat, hog jowls, and the like. I also saw a couple rounds of sausage air-drying on a rack and, next to them, a pair of smoked tom thumbs—the big, upper part of the pig’s intestine stuffed with sausage seasoned with red pepper and sage.
The take-out plates served at the meat counter tell you everything you need to know about Hux’s. They serve six kinds of dinner plates and none of them are high on the hog—they have a chitterling dinner, a pig’s tongue dinner, a pig’s feet dinner, a pig’s ear dinner, a malt (pig’s stomach) dinner, and a barbecue dinner. That’s the store’s whole menu.
The grocery had a crowd today and I know business will be good over the next couple of weeks. Christmas and New Years are traditionally the time of year when local people’s minds turn to chitterlings. It’s also when a lot of children and grandchildren come home looking for a taste of country cooking. Right now local cafes are advertising chitterling specials and butcher shops are selling chitterlings in 10-pound tubs. You’ll even find a few old-fashioned “chitlin struts” celebrating the holiday.
I’m not overly fond of chitterlings, but I understand the appeal. For many, the earthy, tangy taste of chitterlings harkens back to the days of backyard hog killings and the Christmases of their childhoods. For those people, it’s the taste, ultimately, of family and community, of the Southern soil and one’s roots. That taste can still be found year-round at Hux Grocery, next to the railroad tracks at the corner of Main and East Grand.
If you want to eat a little higher on the hog, be sure to check out another grocery store in Nash County—S. B. Smith & Son’s Red & White Supermarket in Dortches, 5 miles north of Rocky Mount. (Photo below.) After I left Hux Grocery, I went by Smith’s to pick up some link sausage for my mother. Smith’s is as big as a regular chain supermarket, but its soul is local: they slaughter hogs once a week, make their own sausage, and cure their own hams.
Smith’s sausage is some of the state’s finest. People make long pilgrimages for it. Especially around Christmas, a steady traffic comes off I-95 to purchase the sausage as people head home for the holidays.
Smith’s also carries more local products than other supermarkets—I got some cornmeal from Atkinson’s Mill, aJohnstonCounty grist mill that’s been in business since the 18thcentury. The store also carries its own brand of preserves that I haven’t seen anywhere else—fig preserves, okra, peaches, and all sorts of other things. Expect big crowds and long lines for sausage if you go this time of year, but Smith’s is worth a trip.