Friday, October 19

History Lessons and Love Letters

This afternoon we were treated to four fantastic presentations. Check our iTunesU and Soundcloud pages in the coming days for podcasts of each and every presentation.

Mark Essig of Asheville, NC, spoke about the global history of the pig, from Mesopotamia to Memphis.

Robert Moss of Charleston, South Carolina (check out his book above!), gave us a history of the Southern barbecue joint. Community pig roasts became tented stands in town squares and eventually sought out permanent, brick-and-mortar locations by the early 20th century. He explained that barbecue sauce used to be a nearly uniform blend of vinegar, spices, and a touch of butter or lard. An informal apprenticeship system drove barbecue regionalization, explained Moss. One barbecue "mentor," such as Henry Perry in Kansas City or Warner Stamey in North Carolina, would teach their craft to budding pitmasters who would go on to open their own joints. For more of Moss's barbecue lessons, check out the weekly writing posts he's been writing for us since June.

And then we got two literary love letters: one from Monique Truong and one from John Dufresne.

Monique, taking her assignment literally, began her talk, "Dear Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, North Carolina..." She went on to talk of immigration, isolation, and homecoming.

John Dufresne, an expat New Englander who now lives in Florida, spoke of his deep affection for Craig's Bar-B-Q in DeValls Bluff, Arkansas. Growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts, Dufresne says that his family's culinary motto was "let no food offend the the palate with assertive taste." Today, he loves all things spicy and bold. He first discovered Craig's on a road trip while he was an MFA student at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and it's not unheard of today for him to hop a plane to Memphis, rent a car, and make the one-hour drive to Craig's just for a sliced pork sandwich or a plate of ribs. He spoke of Robert Craig, the current co-owner of Craig's, and Craig's late father, Lawrence. Like his father, Robert has dedicated his adult life to maintaining Craig's as the lively center of a rapidly shrinking town.

Stay tuned for podcasts of these talks and more over the coming days. We'll be posting on our Soundcloud and iTunesU pages.