In my family-like many families-every event revolves around food. If a baby has just been born, there will be a potluck. If there has been a death, people will mourn with a meal. If there has been a graduation, marriage, family visiting from out of town, a holiday, or any other viable reason-there will be a feast.
My father is one of nine siblings and their roots lie in the heart of Alabama. As one of the hardest hit areas by the great depression, many families made do with what they could. For this reason, barbecued chicken and pork is still a mainstay not just in Alabama, but across the entire deep south. Pigs and chicken were plentiful then, and are a staple to this day.
The accompanying dishes for the above fare were as simple as the meat itself. From an abundance of fruits and vegetables came cornbread, grits, hush puppies, coleslaw, sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, beans, watermelon, and the list goes on… These ingredients are still the backbone in many restaurants across the southeastern United States. One such restaurant-Dreamland Bar-B-Que, founded in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1958-sticks very close to the main menu founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop began with; a menu which has pork and chicken at it’s heart.
Those simple-fare roots run deep throughout the southeast, in my family, and for so many others. To have loved ones gather together for a well dished meal creates memories and stories to warm hearts and lift spirits.
Perhaps the best way to describe my relationship to food-the way I feel deep down-can be summed up with a verse from the Bible: Ecclesiastes 2:24 “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,”
Indeed, there is “nothing better,” especially when said meal has been prepared for, and shared with, friends and family.