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North Carolina goes hog wild over livermush

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There are few words you can put in front of "mush" to make it sound even worse, right? Now add the word "liver." Sounds enticing, doesn't it?

When you learn what goes into livermush, it doesn't get any better, since it's a mixture of pig liver (at least 30 percent, by law), head parts, and cornmeal. Funny, then, how people in central North Carolina love it so. Funny how Shelby, N.C., mayor Ted Alexander has proclaimed it "the world's most perfect food." Funny how that same town hosts something called the Livermush Expo, which draws thousands every year.

Some of its fans enjoy publicizing the unusual meat. Jan Karon, author of a series of books set in fictional Mitford, N.C., has her characters eating livermush in almost every volume. And then there's Mr. Alexander, who loves livermush so much he spells it with a capital "L" - "out of respect," he says - and eats it at least once a week, whether at home or away. "When my daughter Christina and I go camping, she always insists that we take livermush with us, too."

As the unofficial spokesman of livermush, Alexander has seen the processed meat product move from regional joke to feted culinary oddity in the 17 years since Shelby first celebrated its first Livermush Expo. The award-winning festival still packs the streets once a year in celebration of this strangest of meats.

Thought to be a descendant of scrapple, livermush was most likely brought south through the Appalachian mountains by German settlers. It was thought to have thrived throughout the Civil War, when any available foodstuff had to be stretched as far as possible.


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