Barbecue–It’s a Noun, Not a Verb

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.

Barbecue.

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.

Or barbecue.

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:

Hotrmil?

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.

17 Comments

Filed under At Home, Food/Cooking, Nostalgia

17 responses to “Barbecue–It’s a Noun, Not a Verb

  1. Julie Fisher

    All right, you gave me another “laugh-out-loud” moment when you wrote that first line. And I remember that window in the back of that store, too. I can just see the questionable smudges around the frame of the window. And, you’re right about “clean”. You really didn’t want to look too far into the room behind the little window. After all, seasoning is everything, and no good chef gives away his recipe.

  2. thank you. i’m now salivating uncontrollably on an airplane (at the gate)… nothing like real, slow cooked pig…

  3. Oh, I do love barbecue and how, when you eat in a really good BBQ place, you smell like the BBQ smoke for the rest of the day.

    You’re so right about grilling something–it AIN’T BBQ.

  4. Write that book!
    I’m clearly never going to roast a pig slowly in my back garden, but this, this is cultural heritage for X’s sake.

    I’m sick of finding “American” recipes on the internet that are just, “mix 3 tbsps of X commercial sauce with 1 tsp of X commercial powder and 1 can of X commercial product”.

    You Americans had/have a wonderful cookery heritage.

  5. You mean it hasn’t always been Republican?

    One of the things I was looking forward to when we moved south was getting good BBQ. I was looking for those back of the sketchy gas station places (they are always the best) but I haven’t found anything that the comes close to the NC gas station places we used to stop at one the way to the beach.

  6. Thanks a lot. I wish I had some summertime BARBECUE right this moment. I’m just glad you didn’t include any photos.

  7. Too funny. This post certainly made me hungry! It’s always those “hole in the wall” or “dive” establishments that end up being the best.

  8. Julie–I think they kept it dark back in there for a good reason.
    DF–Safe travels. There’s actually pretty good barbecue at the Nashville airport if you ever find yourself there.
    Susie–Somehow I’m thinking that Westport barbecue probably doesn’t compare to Jackson’s.
    PG–I can send you a pretty good sauce recipe if you want it.
    Michelle–Welcome! My favorite barbecue place is in Little Rock–used to see the Clintons in there regularly.
    UB–I thought about it, but in deference to you, decided against it. 🙂
    Sarah–As my father used to say “you can’t eat atmosphere.”

  9. You are so right. I’m always calling the cooking apparatus in the backyard a ‘bbq’ but it’s definitely just an oversized grill.

    You’ve given me an image like the Whistle Stop Cafe in Fried Green Tomatoes. Do you remember that movie?

  10. Ellie–I love Fried Green Tomatoes–the movie and the actual dish. The Whistle Stop was lots fancier than One Stop though.

  11. Jeff

    Southern barbecue! The single thing about the South that I miss the most. Okay, I miss the fireflies too. And the thunderstorms (here in the Pacific NW we only get “Severe Drizzle Warnings”).

    The barbecue, though….just the word is enough to make my mouth water.

  12. Amen! Your post is spot-0n. The best barbecue places are ‘joints.’ Bill Clinton, who is ‘from around here,’ frequents the lowest dive b/c they know from hotrmild!

  13. Okay, I’m a luddite, and can’t find your ‘follower’ button, so I will be back…so you were in LR for a time? We’re on Wye Mt., outside of LR. I am a writer and Excy runs our wild mustang sanctuary, wing spur.

  14. Jeff–Thanks for stopping by. Little Rock barbecue is the best (right Amy?) Sims…White Pig…
    Amy–I’m the luddite–there is no follow button and I don’t even know if it’s an option with this template. I did add an RSS though. (But I’m not exactly sure what it does.) I use Google Reader for the blogs I want to keep up with. Anyhow, always nice to find a kindred spirit.

  15. The best BBQ places were always the sketchy looking ones. Food in general, I think. The one place I miss from my home town was this fish place that was basically in a single-wide trailer on the side of 441. Looked scary, but their hush puppies were the closest thing to culinary heaven I’ve found.

    Calling a sloppy joe ‘food’ is a stretch.

  16. The way you feel about barbecue is how I feel about Italian beef sandwiches.

  17. Pingback: Nice read from “Here in Franklin” | Barbecue is Not a Verb

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