Bar-B-Que and Transcendence

on 09 February 2008

As you know, Wednesday was the Husband's birthday but he's had such an INSANE week that we didn't celebrate until last night. As I know you've missed my snarky restaurant reviews, I have planned my return. Unfortunately...

No snark here.

Per his request we went to Allen & Sons, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall, CLASSIC bar-b-que establishment on highway 86 in Hillsborough, NC. The place had gotten RAVE reviews and the Husband...he loves him some bar-b-que so off we went.

FIRST WARNING: When I moved back to the South after years out west and up north I made the rookie mistake of referring to bar-b-que as a VERB as in To Cook OutSide With Fire. We were on our way together somewhere and the Husband STOPPED the CAR to inform me (in a 20 minute lecture) that BAR-B-QUE is a NOUN not a VERB, it is a KIND of FOOD and not the manner in which it is prepared. If I wanted the VERB it would be To GRILL or simply To Cook OutSide With Fire. But that if I was going to survive the South again, I needed to understand this ONE concept very clearly. So now you know, we're talking about the NOUN. The FOOD. Not the VERB: to cook outside with fire.

We get there and it's this old house that's been converted into a restaurant for I don't know how many years. We sit, we order lemonade (which is so sweet that diabetics should beware), and we peruse the menus.

SECOND WARNING: VEGETARIANS YE BE WARNED. There are NO vegetarian options. Oh, the cole slaw is vegetarian enough but it's a SIDE if you really want to experience Allen & Sons you have to eat some form of meat. And also, I was a BAD vegetarian last night. I ate the fish.

The Husband orders a standard bar-b-que plate that comes with cole slaw, hushpuppies and french fries. They brought it out with a bottle of warmed sauce. He looked at me over a pile of pulled pork with a totally blissed out look on his face. I was sorry, not for the first time, that I hadn't brought the camera. They brought a basket of hushpuppies and my plate of 2 catfish filets and french fries and cole slaw and DUDE...the Dude loves cole slaw for some reason so I was pretty happy. There was no chance I'd ever be able to eat the entire plate, so I settled for one piece of fish and some of the fries and the SLAW.

We ate quite happily for some time, I ordered a dish of cherry cobbler and ice cream--made with SOUR cherries mind you, which is the only REAL way to make cherry pie or cobbler. It was divine. Swimming in butter but DIVINE nonetheless.

As we sat mulling over the meal we'd just consumed and watching other customers drift in and we started talking about how miraculous food is. Now, I have more than the average girls' share of body issues and food issues (this you all know about me by now) but it cannot be denied in the South that there is something truly transcendent about Southern Food. Here we sat and across the restaurant was a large table filled with older established white folk, two tables from them was an African-American couple, just behind the door was a South Asian mom and her two kids and then in walked two Punk/Anti-Establishment type girls who ordered take out. And then there was The Husband and I--two graduate students just trying to blend in.

We talked for a long time about how interesting it is the South. People talk about their differences; racial, religious, cultural, political, linguistic even--but what they don't see is the way that everyone lays down those differences for The Food. We all eat it, catfish, bar-b-que, collards, slaw, beans, corn bread, fried chicken, grits, fried green tomatoes, ocra, biscuits, pie and the ever present carafe of Sweet Tea or lemonade, in our case (we don't drink the TEA). It's all there...those ties that bind us together and make us equals whether we acknowledge them or not.

Sometimes I wish people would just notice.


Miss Sarah in Georgia said...

Beautiful post.

Sounds like a bbq place Clint would love.