Before Franklin got all chi-chi and Republican, it was just another small Southern town–albeit a really pretty one. On warm days when the car windows were down and house windows were up, there was a certain aroma that permeated the town.
The gentle smoke curled around porches and patios and snaked its way through open screen doors.
In this one-horse town, there was only one place to buy barbecue–One Stop.
One Stop was the original 7/11…Mapco…BP…a convenience store before we knew they were called convenience stores.
It was right in town and the barbecue pit was in back. I don’t know where the pigs came from, or how it was made…I just knew that when barbecue was on the menu, you went to One Stop.
It was kinda dingy…kinda sketchy. You stopped there if you needed a quart of milk or a loaf of white bread.
You went in the front door to the back of the store. There was a window where you went to place your order. Please remember, these were simpler times. We didn’t have the choice of pulled or chopped…brisket or beef. This was just BARBECUE. You ordered a sandwich or a pound.
There was a red-headed black woman who took your order. After you stated the amount you wanted, she would bark at you:
We natives knew that she meant did you want hot or mild sauce. Hot being a vinegary thin sauce, mild being more catsupy.
No barbecue dinner was complete without corn light bread. I don’t know if this delicacy is found anywhere other than a 100 mile radius of Franklin. Essentially, it’s a cake-like sweet corn bread baked in a loaf pan. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the baked beans and slaw that are the traditional sides served with Middle Tennessee barbecue.
And that brings me back to my title–BARBECUE IS A NOUN, NOT A VERB.
When you cook a steak on the grill, you are not barbecuing it…you are grilling it. When you mix up ground beef with Sloppy Joe mix, you’re not making barbecue–you’re making … well, I don’t know what you call it, because I’ve never actually eaten a Sloppy Joe–but I know a woman who calls it barbecue. (She’s not from around here.)
Barbecue is what you get after you cook a pig for many hours over low heat. You really can’t do it at home. Sure, you can buy some sauce at the store and pour it over your grilled chicken, but it’s really not barbecue.
Sorry. It’s just not.
There’s more than one barbecue place in town now, and some are pretty good. But they’re awfully clean and the people who work there are just a little too perky.
No one ever barks “hotrmil” anymore.
I miss that.