How This Street Food Chef Turned Pig’s Feet Into A Fortune

vintage baby stroller
Briona Lamback
January 25, 2024

Lillian Harris  stood on a buzzing Manhattan street corner in a freshly starched dress with a baby carriage – but no baby. Dean had something completely unexpected inside.

“Pig’s feet!” she yelled. “A taste of down-home for your weary bones.” This tagline for the bony delicacy earned Lillian Harris the nickname Pig Foot Mary. Her carriage was packed not only with pig’s feet but also fried chicken, corn, hog maws, and chitlins. Her traditional dishes offered a taste of nostalgic comfort to Black people like herself who had migrated to New York City from the South.

Pig Foot Mary was leaning into the legacy of Black caterers who, since the 1700s, have cooked their way to financial independence. Although she had come to New York penniless, she built a booming business, and eventually replaced her baby carriage with a portable steam table that she had designed.

A business that had a dozen sales a day grew into one serving more than 300 customers on weekends. And Pig Foot Mary’s dreams continued to grow  too. 

She went from selling home cooking to using her culinary cash to buy apartment buildings in Harlem and rent the apartments to her people during the roaring twenties.

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