There is Hope in Barbecue

It’s no surprise that when barbecue makes it onto Nightline, the subject matter turns a bit more serious than usual.  John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is featured in a recent segment on the show discussing how barbecue culture may present an opportunity to address racism in America.  He makes a pretty good argument for barbecue restaurants serving as a venue in which to address entrenched issues like racism.  In one of his more memorable quotes, in response to the skeptical reporter who asks him whether a place like church might be more appropriate for delving into subjects like racism, Edge says, “Church is so segregated, barbecue restaurants aren’t segregated… I think there is hope in barbecue.”

4 Responses

  1. He’s right about churches…there’s no more clear examples of self-segregation in America than in our churches.

    BBQ restaurants and pig pickin’s have always been places and events, respectively, where blacks, whites and everyone else have felt comfortable to share a meal together.

    In fact, think about Adam Scott, a black man who started selling barbecue out of his home in the early part of the 20th century, that brought in black patrons and white patrons alike.

    There are few things that can overcome racism, but food–particularly GREAT food like BBQ–can do it.

  2. I’ll give him due on the self-segregation of churches (although the church I attend is mixed), but I take exception to what J. Curle writes about “BBQ restaurants and pig pickin’s have ALWAYS been places and events, respectively, where blacks, whites and everyone else have felt comfortable to share a meal together.” I have photographs of Q-joints that were segregated. I will concede that MOST Q-joints served anyone and everyone, but not “always”.

  3. True. The use of the word “always” was inaccurate. I meant it more romantically than definitively…and I’m sure that probably there are MORE examples of segregation at BBQ restaurants–like all restaurants in NC in the early 20th cent.–than those that were not.

    My broader point being, during NC and the South’s lost wandering through Jim Crow and forced segregation, barbecue was strong enough to offer respites of racial tolerance and mingling from time to time when they could be found no where else.

  4. I’ve heard and read wonderful stories about Q-joints ignoring the “norm” and serving everyone who entered their doors. That is a true “cross-cultrual” phenomenon that is mainly unheard of in regard to many other segments of society of the day.

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