A Sunday lunch of slow cooked pork with housemade sauce, green beans, potato salad and a drop of mac and cheese wrap up The Roots of BBQ weekend. I had to fight that fly to eat and take this photo.
Our Farm Manager Adrian waits in line with other guest for the okra purloo, squash and zucchini and catfish stew lovingly prepared over coals by Chef BJ Dennis, Hall of Fame honoree Willis (I owe him some sugarcane juice) and Chef Amethyst Ganaway.
Growing up in Cleveland as a Pee Dee transplant, memories built around pork peppered my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood:
three crispy slices of fatback that decorated our kitchen stove most Sunday afternoons
my late father teaching me how to clean chitlins over the phone (then my mom telling me I cleaned them too much lolol)
regular grocery store trips to pick up freshly cut slices of souse meat
mom's barbecue pigs feet melting in our mouths AND the napkins that melted on our fingertips after dinner
ham bones were an official form of currency as long as I can remember. I've passed that enthusiasm onto my kids
a relationship with an old boyfriend ending soon after he told me that pig pickin' was men's work
Modern modes of whole hog pit cooking - the cinder block setup and the custom steel pit. Really interested in seeing an old school refrigerator pit.
All of these recollections came rushing back as I listened to Howard Conyers, PhD, celebrate his Clarendon County roots and the Black elder statesmen (and women) pitmasters who influenced him at the pit, on the farm, in the woods and at NASA. Being one of the lucky few to purchase a ticket and attend this historic education and celebratory event felt like being a fly on the wall at a Conyers Family Reunion.
Harkening back to an era where no part of the farm raised pigs was wasted highlighted the vital work young livestock farmers like Kyle Smith from New Jersey and Marvin Ross of Peculiar Pig Farm in SC are doing everyday. At least five generations of Marvin's family have kept up the practice of raising hogs in woodlots supplemented by organic feed - and you can taste it in every bite. His products alone have sparked so many conversations within my family. Listening, learning and watching the progression from whole hog into several distinct dishes is reminiscent of the artisan foodways most attribute to products like wine and cheese in Europe or fermented foods in Asia. I was proud to witness and taste that level of craftsmanship in Paxville, SC with oral traditions and artisan skills being passed down from one generation to the next.
Day One Roots of BBQ Panel Lineup
Deah Berry Mitchell - Texas
Farmers Kyle Smith - New Jersey Marvin Ross - South Carolina Harrison Conyers - South Carolina
Ben Burkett - Mississippi Historian George Frierson - South Carolina BBQ Speakers Chris Blanding - South Carolina Harrison Conyers - South Carolina Howard Conyers - South Carolina
Sadly, the Black community's disconnection from land has us trapped in a fragile global food system that doesn't profit from our collective freedom. In response, many talented local people like Marvin are producing food that tastes like they did way back in the 50s and 60s - where is our will to support [them] (quoting Dr. Millicent Brown)?
What Dr. Conyers delivered so vividly, not only with his knowledge and humor and deep love for his people and hometown and his intentional efforts to hire Black businesses to handle logistics with filmmaking, hospitality work, the exchange of Black books and beyond resembled the kind of day-to-day living that we want to return to at Fresh Future Farm, community caring for itself through food.
Howard and Kyle prepping the last of three pigs sometime around 1 am on Sunday.
Deah Berry Mitchell putting the coals to the cinder block pit early Sunday morning.
The same cinder block pit being worked by Howard and a fellow pit cooking student from Indiana around 6 am.
Final flip North Carolina style around on Sunday afternoon.
Howard prepping the finished pig for service on Sunday afternoon.
Hash and rice
It turns out whole hog pit cooked barbecue is a team sport and Howard is so fortunate to have forty years of team work with his family and their cooking/moonshine making cousins. Corporations can be a vital silent partner on the team. Follow Kingsford Charcoal's example and sponsor Black pitmasters, storytellers, artisans, farmers, chefs, writers, creatives when they build their wisdom to do the same. As we approach Juneteenth and commemorate our collective freedom, it's time to set our intentions on centering (and spending our dollars on) Black foodways as a 365 day a year practice.
Taneka Reeves and Johnny Caldwell, aka The Cocktail Bandits wrapped up the weekend's education by teaching us that the Black dollar has built a castle in France for the producers of Hennessey. We need the same energy for Black owned products in the states.
Join me in celebrating the inaugural Black Barbecue Hall of Fame honorees this Juneteenth weekend AND amplify Dr. Conyers' Agriculture-Economics Incubator plan with a donation to the #100AcresProject
2022 Inaugural Black BBQ Hall of Fame Honorees
Chris Blanding - South Carolina
John Nelson - South Carolina
Dean Conyers - South Carolina
Michael Haynes -South Carolina
Tarleton Blackwell - South Carolina
Hallie Conyers - South Carolina
Harrison Conyers - South Carolina
Ed Mitchell - North Carolina Stephen & Gerri Grady - North Carolina
Ricky Scott - South Carolina
Maple's BBQ- South Carolina
Scott's BBQ - South Carolina
Jones BBQ Diner - Arkansas
Helen Turner's BBQ - Tennessee
Patillo's BBQ - Texas
Corporate hint: Multi-year monetary investments directed to Black folks speaks volumes compared to all canned and phoney solidarity statements. I'm gonna grab a few specially marked bags of Kingsford charcoal at Walmart so our Blackity Black pit cooking barbecue roots continue to multiply.