It’s that time again.
Every fall, I yearn for real home-cooked barbecue. Not just any barbecue, but the barbecue that is made from a recipe that was, literally, passed from generation to generation when the oldest male, on his deathbed, revealed the recipe to the oldest male of the next generation. Never was it written; for more than a hundred years, the recipe has survived.
Fate must have led me to find it at an impromptu stand on a side road near Yanceyville, NC. After buying a quart, I asked the man who made it to tell his family’s story to my class at our community college. Immediately, he agreed.
At the time, I was teaching a very large class, more than forty students who met in the school auditorium. Thanks to the generosity of the barbecue man, more than a dozen non-students were invited.
When the time came, I introduced him as a Goodyear employee who was also a student of a phase of American history that he had studied much of his adult life. That was the phase of southern slavery.
Applause followed him as he took the podium.
For more than fifteen minutes, he spoke to an audience that was both appreciative and respectful. When his presentation ended, he surprised us all by feeding each of us the barbecue he had made for us prior to his coming to the college.
It was a meal none of us will ever forget because he had been the last to receive the barbecue’s secret recipe, the recipe that had been handed down from the first of his ancestors, a slave who made his secret barbecue from a never-revealed recipe on the Carolina coast.
That recipe was only shared on the owner’s deathbed with the oldest male relative of the next generation.
Every Thanksgiving, I recall that experience and his ancestors’ sweet triumph over a blighted past.
Hopefully, I’ll find him again. If so, I’ll buy his barbecue, barbecue I will never forget the taste of because it reminds me of freedom that all of us can appreciate.
My hope is that you, too, will have a wonderful holiday as you, too, give thanks!
p.s. This Thanksgiving, November 24, would have been my father’s 105th birthday!