BBQ Thursday: Lewis Grizzard Tells It Like It Is

The following is an excerpt from Lewis Grizzard’s They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat, pages 45-48.  In this book, Lewis talks about his first heart surgery and this section is his fear that inserting a pig valve in his heart will hurt his taste and appetite for BBQ.

Despite all that, however, I have always had a voracious appetite for barbecue and even fancy myself as quite the expert on the subject.  What would happen to me with a hog in my heart?

Every time I’d pass a barbeque restaurant, my eyes would fill with tears?

Barbecue.  My thoughts raced back to the integral part it has played in my life. 

There was the annual Fourth of July Barbecue in my hometown.  The churches went in together and bough hogs and then the menfolk would sit up all night before the fourth and barbecue the hogs over hickory smoke in an open pit, which doesn’t take a great deal of work once the hogs are cooking, so the menfolk had a lot of time to sit around and talk, mostly about the Bible.

They would talk Revelation for a time, which always spooked me, and then they would get along to something like Deuteronomy. 

The Fourth of July Barbecue drew people from far away as Newnan, LaGrange, and Hogansville.  One year, a man from North Carolina was passing through and stopped in to partake.

He asked for cole slaw.

“What for?” somebody asked.  “There’s plenty of stew and light bread.”

“I want to put it on my barbeque,” the man from North Carolina said.

I learned my first rule about barbecue that day.  You don’t put cole slaw on it.  I think it is in Deuteronomy somewhere.

Somebody pulled a knife on the man and he got back in his car and went back to North Carolina. 

After I left home, I roamed freely about other parts of the country, and I came to understand several truths about barbecue. 

-The best barbeque is served in the state of Georgia.  In Texas, they barbeque beef, which isn’t barbecue at all, and neither is goat, which is stringy.  I wouldn’t even put cole slaw on barbecued goat out of respect for the cole slaw.

-The best barbeque is found in family-run operations.  Harold Hembree, who runs Harold’s Barbeque in Atlanta, can’t even count the number of cousins, nieces and nephews working for him.   There are three generations of Sprayberrys cooking and serving at Sprayberry’s in Newnan, Georgia.   Sweat’s is a family operation in Soperton, Georgia, and it was Jim Brewer’s father-in-law who started Fresh Air in Jackson, Georgia, fifty-one years ago when he served off a sawdust floor.  “When it’s a family working together,” says Jim Brewer, “things get done right.”

-If there are religious posters on the wall, you can usually count on the barbecue being good.  Harold’s is a perfect example.

-Good barbeque restaurants rarely serve beer, as good as beer is with barbecue.  “Mama won’t allow it here,” is why Harold Hembree doesn’t serve beer at his place.  “You’ll lose your family trade,” says Jim Brewer of Fresh-Air.

-If a restaurant specializes in something besides barbecue, the barbecue probably won’t be any good.  You can serve other things, just don’t brag on it.  Jack Sweat in Soperton is still amazed at the time a family of Yankees headed for Florida stopped by his place and ordered fried shrimp.

-Georgia barbecue restaurants are careful what kind of bread they serve with their meat.  Normally, it’s thin buns for sandwiches, and white bread for plates.  Harold’s toasts white bread over an open flame for sandwiches and serves cracklin’ cornbread with its plates.  I think Harold will go to heaven for his cracklin’ cornbread.

-Brunswick stew is too complicated to get into.  Everybody has a different idea about how it should be cooked and what it should contain.  “We even get ‘em who complain unless the stew’s been cooked in a hog’s head,” says Jim Brewer. 

-Sauce: Ditto.  In Georgia alone there are hundreds of varieties of sauces.  If the meat is good, the sauce will be, too. 

-It is important to put up a sign in a barbecue restaurant that says “No Shoes.  No Shirt.  No Service.”  That will add class to the place by keeping out people from Texas and North Carolina.

My doctors assured me the installation of a porcine valve into my heart would have no effect upon my taste and desire and enjoyment for good barbecue.

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2 Responses to “BBQ Thursday: Lewis Grizzard Tells It Like It Is”


  1. 1 One Sad 'Dog September 8, 2011 at 9:43 am

    The thing I miss most about being away from Georgia is no even half-way decent barbecue around these parts. And Brunswick Stew? Don’t even bother to ask!

    I admit, I sometimes get desperate. There’s a Sonny’s 40 miles up the road.

    But that particular Sonny’s is so Yankeefied itself that it screws up the sweet tea and, again, don’t even ask about the Brunswick Stew.

    A pork plate at one particular local Cuban restaurant actually comes pretty darn close under the circumstances. But steer clear of the myriad other Cuban places.

  2. 2 DawgOnRampage September 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

    God bless Lewis…and God bless Herschel’s momma


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