Thursday, November 30, 2023

Helen’s Bar-B-Q: Smoke Gets in Her Eyes

Brownsville, Tenn. BBQ haven is only three counties away

On a good Saturday, a leisurely drive from Oxford to Brownsville, Tenn. is worth the wander. Helen’s Bar-B-Q is waiting there. Proprietor Helen Turner won the 2012 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award— honoring a “tradition bearer of Southern foodways; an unsung hero or heroine of note”—from the Southern Foodways Alliance. She was also crowned the 2013 “Queen of Barbecue” at the Charleston Wine + Food festival three weeks ago.

You can almost taste the smoke in this film by Joe York for the SFA, used here with permission of the SFA:

Turner also talked about her process for cooking barbecue, in 2008. This oral history slideshow is part of a project documenting barbecue in Tennessee for the Southern BBQ Trail. Interviews and photographs by Rien T. Fertel. Used with permission of the SFA:

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. Its mission is to “set common table where black and white, rich, and poor—all who gather—may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.”

A member-supported non-profit, based at the University of Mississippi, SFA stages symposia on food culture, produces documentary films, collects oral histories, and publishes compendiums of great writing. In the Atlantic Monthly, Corby Kummer dubbed the SFA “this country’s most intellectually engaged (and probably most engaging) food society.”