So my family and I decided to go to the Great Smokey Mountains for a family week-long vacation. It was that or I was pretty sure I was going to make the 6:00 news and not in a good way. Nice huh? I told my lovely wife that I wanted to stop at a particular BBQ restaurant along the way. This place was special to me as it was the first place I recall having BBQ, and to make it even better, it was with my grandfather. Just the two of us men. Granted I was probably 7, but still..... So my wife and I make it a point to time our trip so we got to this little place at around 11:30 which we did. The moment I walked in, I was taken back to the time I was 7. The smell was incredible and the decor was just as it was 41 years ago with the addition of newer Alabama Football Championship regalia (insert Roll Tide Roll here). The place is a mobile home with an addition built on for the pit, and time has taken a heavy toll on the place as evidenced by the 13.3 degree angle my chair sat at due to the floor base rotting away. I felt like a rocket waiting for the go code. Everything was covered in a thin film of smoke which included the fake panel wall covering and the carpet that would make any 60's, acid-dropping hippy long for the days of lost time and overplayed electric keyboards. The place was hopping. As there were only 6 tables in the whole place, every table was full, and the to-go service was nonstop. The servings were huge and not expensive at all. Camp stew, chopped BBQ pork sandwiches, french fries, and fried okra rounded out the meal. To make it even more special, my diet Coke had 1/2 of a smashed roach, German Cockroach I believe, stuck to the side. I called it character......Sherri called it disgusting. You say tomato and I say tomaaaato. With eager anticipation, I awaited our edible trip down memory lane. Then it happened, the food arrived, and I
dug in with the excitement of a school kid with a new Trapper Keeper and Toughskin Jeans. I expected to hear a "BOOOOM", but all I got was a "Pfffft". Something was wrong. It didn't taste like I remember it tasting while at the same time it tasted exactly like I remembered it. Looking out the dirty window complete with dust and dead bugs, I thought how funny it was to me how time taints our experience and memories. We remember things how we want to remember them and not necessarily as things were. I ordered what we used to get when I was with my grandfather, but somehow and without him with me, it didn't taste as good as I wanted. I managed to plow through the lunch just fine because I'm a professional on a mission. As we sat there taking bets on how long before I fell through the structurally questionable floor, Sherri and I discussed how time changes our memory of things. Of course we were yelling this over the window A/C units that kept the place nice and cool. Meal and trip down memory lane over, we got up and paid the bill which was around $20.00 for two large BBQ pork sandwiches, french fries, fried okra, and bowl of camp stew with two drinks. Not bad at all. So next time you think you are going to relive a favorite childhood memory just make sure what you are seeking is actually there and not just a larger part of something else. BBQ meal....$20.00, diet Coke with half of smashed German cockroach....$1.50, remembering what is really important in a memory and being the people with whom you make the memory....priceless. So if you are ever rolling up 231 North and see a BBQ place that looks like 1/2 of a mobile home, stop in, have a coke with a roach and a BBQ pork sandwich. Tell the nice ladies hello and avoid the far left table closest to the wall if you weigh more than 45 lbs. Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Hello."
So, yet again, here you are reading the thoughts of one of your fellow BBQ brethrin. No judgment. Soon and as a nation, we will be celebrating yet another year of the founding of our great nation and all that it is. Yes, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Anyone that has been to Wal-Mart can attest to that. I've seen so many people in pajamas there that I thought I had walked into a double-wide, slumber party. With that being said, it is also a time to reflect on the past year in our nation's history. We have a new president with his first full year in office, and it certainly hasn't been boring. We have also finished the World Food Contest with a new winner crowned; we have had a Jack winner; and we have had many, many other local contests with new and old winners. I know our area has seen a decrease in the number of contests, and I don't know if that is a national trend or not. Sadly, I suspect it is. BBQ is a lot like our great nation. It is constantly evolving and changing. Much like underwear, change is a good thing. I do think the folks of our news channels and government could learn a lot about civility from paying attention to BBQ folks. The media is loaded with people just being plain ugly and rude to others. You don't see that a whole lot at a competition. Go to any BBQ competition, and anyone worth being around (minus the occasional idiot) will help you in any way and root for you when you win. Not that winning isn't fun (so I hear), but the BBQ folks always keep in perspective the fact that it is about community. I don't think BBQ folks will ever lose sight of that, at least I hope they don't. I know at one of our first contests in Dothan, I had someone volunteer to show us how to shave the fat off chicken thigh skins to get bite-through skin. Had a nice gentleman at the site next to me at my first KCBS contest show me how to build a good turn in box. Mr. Cook even gave me a guru thermometer cable when mine got torn to pieces during transport, and Forrest Dilmore gave me a blue hippo that he got out of one of those grab machines. Nice folks all the way around. You don't see that a whole lot on the news, and it's easy to forget that America is made up of real, hard-working, caring, and salt-of-the-earth people. I sincerely believe the folks in BBQ are more representative of the real Mr. and Mrs. America than what the some would have you believe. The talking heads and politicians? Meh.......not so much. Remember: Politics = poly (many) + tics (blood sucking insects). With that being said, I challenge you Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public to get out there and say hello to your neighbor, be nice to that someone that is having a bad day, help that new team competing for the first time at a local BBQ contest, challenge the stereotype of others, and prove to the world that 'Merica is still a great place full of genuinely nice and caring people. If you happen to do it while wearing a pair of Sponge Bob pajama bottoms at a local Wal-Mart.....then so be it. Anyway, y'all take care and get out there and smoke some meat. Enjoy the day and remember all those that have served and keep on serving to keep our great nation what it is. Riley says "Hello" and "Hey man, is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up!"