Georgia BBQ Trails

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Georgia BBQ Trails and Georgia Public Radio visit Crowe's BBQ in Madison, Georgia

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Visit https://www.gpbnews.org/post/georgia-barbecue-trail-traces-path-people-too?fbclid=IwAR3kdVfkkth85BIZDV3CJz8NNI01ncuFTnhdizVj5OG_iXfu7HM-pAg81J8


Craig Pascoe says when people come to Georgia, North Carolina or Alabama they often have one food on their mind. 

“The first thing they ask is ‘I want authentic BARBECUE,’” Pascoe said.

To satisfy aficionados’ appetite for Georgia barbecue, Pascoe teamed up with colleague James “Trae” Welborn to develop Georgia Barbecue Trails,  a website mapping the location of traditional barbecue restaurants and  situating their stories in the history and culture of Georgia.
 

“We  want to provide a place where people can come and learn about barbecue  and the depth that barbecue has and the importance of barbecue in the  history and culture of the state,” Pascoe said.

Pascoe and  Welborn are professors of Southern history at Georgia College in  Milledgeville. They see barbecue as an appetizer for a larger  conversation about a broad range of themes and issues in Southern  history.

“Barbecue really brings together all the different  elements that make up historical development,” Welborn said. “You have  economic shifts, you have race relations, you have class dynamics — as  you explore barbecue, you really explore the history of the state, the  history of particular families, particular communities and, more  broadly, the state within the nation and across the globe.”

Barbecue  may be a sure-fire conversation starter for classroom discussion, but  Pascoe and Welborn knew interest in the topic won’t be limited to  students. They created georgiabbqtrails.com as a website where viewers  can learn about the state’s history through barbecue and make a little  history of their own by blazing their own barbecue trail on Georgia’s  many highways and byways.

“If they’re coming down 85, or going up  75 coming in from Florida, they can see where the barbecue places are  within about 15 to 20 miles from those major interstates – 20, 16, 75 or  85,” Pascoe said.


One stop on any Georgia Barbecue Trail should be Crowe’s Bar-B-Que.

Located  just north of the intersection of I-20 and Highway 441 in Madison,  Crowe’s is a second-generation family owned business whose barbecue goes  back a lot further.

“My granddaddy had a dairy in DeKalb County.  And every year at the Fourth of July they would have a customer  appreciation and they would feed, back then — this was in the '60s –  they’d feed 400-500 folks, which DeKalb County back then was rural,”  said Phillip Crowe, who founded Crowe’s Bar-B-Que in 1991.

Sixty  years ago, Phillip’s grandfather L.J. Crowe would stay up all night  cooking whole hogs, goat and pots of Brunswick Stew. But his specialty  was ribs.

“He could take ribs and cook slow with the coals like  he did,” Phillip said. “When you cook them slow for three or four hours  and they’re barely dripping, it’s just — everybody loved ‘em.”

In  1976, Phillip’s father, Bobby, incorporated Granddaddy L.J.’s love of  barbecue into a little country grocery store in the Centerville  community of Gwinnett County. Bobby Crowe began putting family recipes  on paper and engineering a distinct means of cooking the Crowe family  barbecue.


“The  first [cooker] we built was in ’76, we built it out of concrete,”  Phillip Crowe said. “My daddy’s cousin had a contract with Georgia Power  and Bell South pouring these underground boxes and they modified [one],  set one on the bottom and set [another] one up on top, we put doors and  the racks in it, laid a chimney and built a barn around it. He had a  country store, and that’s where I really learned how to finally started  cooking barbecue.”

Crowe’s current cooker resembles a boxy,  black-metal steam engine with a front-loading fire box leading up to a  large chamber capable of cooking hundreds of pounds of ham and chicken  and numerous racks of ribs. Custom built in 1994, this convection-based,  single pass cooker has seen several modifications over its 25 years,  but one secret to its longevity was built in from the beginning.

“When  we built this one, everybody said ‘that’s way too much chimney,’ and I  said ‘well I don’t think you can have too much chimney,’” Phillip Crowe  says pointing to the metal smoke stack rising 25 feet from the back of  the cooker. “You can put all the air you want into it, but if it don’t  draw, it will make your meat get a heavy darkness, too much hickory  flavor.”

As Phillip Crowe shows off the operation and recounts  the Crowe’s family history in barbecue, the next generation buzzes  around him throwing wood on the fire, flipping meat and moving cooked  food from the cooker to the kitchen.

Phillip’s son Ben Crowe now  runs the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. The restaurant in Madison  opened when he was less than a year old, so he’s come of age as his  father transitioned family tradition into a recipe for success.

When  asked about how he decides how much meat to cook on any given business  day or how he knows when to add a piece of hickory, white oak or pecan  wood to the fire, he said there’s no formula or prescribed way of doing  things. It comes down to the feel he has for the work.

“It’s  based off of experience,” he said. “I’ve been doing it with my father  since I was 12 or 13 years old, actually standing up here on the pit  with him.”

And the knowledge hasn’t only moved in one direction.  Along with business partner Mason Carter, Ben is helping his father  connect the Crowe’s family restaurant with a new audience that wants  their barbecue with a side of tradition. He’s adapting Crowe’s mainstays  into new menu items like smoked chicken salad and using Instagram and  Facebook to invite customers old and new to eat at Crowe’s. The next big  thing is a food truck to help bring Crowe’s Bar-B-Que to the masses.


Professors  Pascoe and Welborn say Crowe’s Bar-B-Que is indicative of the way  they’re seeing Southern traditions of barbecue evolve and adapt over  time. Beginning with L.J Crowe’s celebration of community and  appreciation, each generation has added its own flavor or technique to  the recipe, resulting in a meal that tells a story about the Crowe’s and  their history in Georgia.

“I think Crowe’s has a lot of the  elements in terms of those major patterns that we’ve started to see,”  Welborn says. “Not only the way they’ve made they’re barbecue low and  slow over wood, but the way they’ve honed those skills over multiple  generations, migrated from different places and tried to keep those  traditions alive.”

You can learn more about Georgia history and its barbecue traditions at georgiabbqtrails.com.

Looking at Georgia History and Culture Through the Lens of BBQ

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 All too often, we tend to focus on the big four regions in barbecue ⁠—  the Carolinas, Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City ⁠— while losing sight of  the many other places where barbecue is an important part of culture and  history. Even though pitmaster Myron Mixon of Unadilla, Georgia is  arguably the face of barbecue in mainstream media, Georgia is one such  place with a rich barbecue heritage that often gets passed over.
 

According to Craig Pascoe and James “Trae” Welborn, both history  professors at Georgia College & State University, Georgia barbecue  is often described as a patchwork of traditions from other places. In  fact, at the turn of the 20th century, Georgia barbecue was considered  the quintessential barbecue of the American South, thanks in part to  Sheriff John W. Callaway. In the late 19th century, Callaway oversaw the  barbecue pits at large public events and celebrations and his  larger-than-life persona garnered Georgia barbecue national attention  when he appeared in publications such as Harper’s Weekly.

 

Pascoe, who was Conceptual Design Creator for the Barbecue Nation  exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, and Welborn started the Georgia BBQ Trails project to tell the story of Georgia’s history and culture through the  unique lens of barbecue. The two professors created an educational  website to share stories of the history, people, places, events, and  traditions of Georgia barbecue.
 

The website has beautiful photos of the state’s iconic barbecue joints  as well as hidden gems that often don’t get a lot of attention. There’s  an interactive map of barbecue restaurants throughout the state that is  continually being updated, with links to find more information. You can  also find recipes for side dishes such as cornbread, collard greens, and  Brunswick stew.

 

Pascoe is now incorporating the Georgia BBQ Trails project into his  class on Southern Foodways and Traditions, an upper-level course offered  to students pursuing a variety of degrees. The class will include a  significant amount of reading, but rather than simply being a class made  up of classroom lectures, students will have the opportunity to  participate in a potluck dinner and food crawls.
 

This fall, students will even participate in research for the Georgia  BBQ Trails project, including collecting recipes and conducting oral  history interviews with barbecue pitmasters and restaurant owners.  Students will also have the opportunity to delve into their own family  barbecue traditions as part of the class.

 

Pascoe and Welborn have also worked with Georgia Public Broadcasting to develop a short video piece on Crowe’s Bar-B-Que in Madison, Georgia. They are hoping to expand this into a project  called Georgia BBQ Voices, which will tell family and community stories  about barbecue.
 

This fall, they will focus on two related joints ⁠— Tucker’s and  Fincher’s ⁠— both located in Macon, Georgia. They will be looking at  changes in the neighborhoods where the restaurants are located, offering  insight into the community and peeling back layers by looking over an  extended period of time. Pascoe and Welborn want students to be involved  in the project.

 

Doing this type of historical research is about much more than just  food. According to Welborn, “It gives us a look into what’s happening in  Georgia and throughout the South.” It allows students and scholars to  examine issues such as class tensions, race, and gender as seen through  the lens of barbecue.
 

Pascoe summed it up by saying the goal of the project is not to keep  Georgia barbecue frozen in time but rather to use barbecue to tell the  story of Georgia’s past, present, and future. “What you’re gonna eat  today, you’re not gonna find 100 years from now,” Pascoe said. 
 

For more information about the Georgia BBQ Trails project, check out  Kevin Kelly’s recent interview with Craig Pascoe and Trae Welborn on  the Kevin’s BBQ Joints podcast.

https://mailchi.mp/5598a3c41984/georgia-bbq-trails?e=ab9b5de38c


Ryan Cooper (BBQ Tourist)
Co-Founder, The Smoke Sheet
 

Garden & Gun Guide to the South's Best New BBQ Joints

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Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons and The SmoQue Pit in Statesboro were included in the Garden & Gun Guide. Check it out! 

https://gardenandgun.com/feature/souths-best-new-barbecue-joints/


Fincher's Bar-B-Q Makes Food Networks List of America's Best Barbecue from Coast to Coast

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In Memory of a Georgia Pitmaster--Harold Marshall

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Lovies BBQ in Atlanta and Georgia lost an 'Old School' Pit Master last week with the death of Harold Marshall. He died on November 9, 2018 after a long career cooking barbecue in Atlanta. Harold started out working in the kitchen of the Varsity before changing to barbecue restaurants, spending many years at the Hickory House Barbecue Restaurants. 

I first met Harold more than twenty years ago while he was tending the open hearth pit at Bobbie and Junes on 14th Street in Atlanta. I stopped by for some barbecue to take home for dinner, and this large man behind the counter told me the pork wasn’t ready yet. He encouraged me to wait for it, so I took a stool at the counter and we started talking. I learned a lot about how he slow-cooked pork barbecue over wood coals. 

An hour or so later, he took the meat off the fire, waited for it to cool a bit, and pulled some for me to take home. I enjoyed both the smell of the open hearth and the conversation with Harold, and the barbecue was worth waiting for.

Six years ago, my son, Nate “Lovie” Newman, was getting ready to open a barbecue place in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. One of the first people hired to help him was Todd Black, a member of the family that had owned the Hickory Houses. One day before Lovies BBQ opened, Todd brought Harold Marshall to introduce to Nate. While Nate had lots of practice cooking barbecue for friends and family in the back yard, as well as, catering and tailgating, he had never run a restaurant kitchen. Harold’s Old School approach to cooking meat over wood smoke fit perfectly with Nate’s vision for Lovies to use an authentic method of making barbecue. Harold would never use a meat thermometer to tell when the meat was done. 

Harold became an anchor in the Lovies' kitchen, and soon after going to work, he and I renewed our friendship from long ago. He forged bonds with three generations of my family from grandmother and father (my wife and I) to son to grandson. Harold’s legacy was to share his love of cooking barbecue with the staff at Lovies. His humor and Old School approach to smoking meat will be missed. 


---Harvey Newman

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231 W Hancock St, Milledgeville, GA 31061

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