Growing up Southern is a privilege. It’s about knowing the way the dust settles after a good peanut picking season, or the way cotton looks when it dots the field and post-season, when it’s boxed up in huge tarp-covered piles. It’s much more than tailgates and football, it’s about the true willingness to give the man next to you the shirt off of your back, even if it means walking around naked.
Every Thanksgiving-eve, my family goes to Smithfield, Virginia, for an oyster roast and pot luck with our family friends, the Barlows. My dad used to work for Randolph Barlow at Farmer’s Service, a “feed-and-seed” store right on the outer limits of Smithfield and Isle of Wight Courthouse. This year was no exception: at 5:30pm, we made the annual trek down route 258, towards Smithfield to enjoy oysters, food, and friendship.
After we went through the food line, my family sat down at one of the many picnic tables and we began to eat. As soon as I took a bite of the barbecue, I knew immediately that it was made by Bob Ballinger. There is something so undeniably beautiful about being able to taste something and know exactly where it came from. I have been eating Bob Ballinger’s barbecue ever since I was old enough to eat, and it tastes like Windsor, Virginia.
Growing up Southern means asking “whose ham is that?” and having people answer you without missing a beat: (Edwards or Gwaltney being the usual suspects).
It means being able to eat home made barbecue and knowing that the man who made it is honest and hardworking and kind. It’s about the first day of deer season, and seeing blaze-orange dot the woods all the way down a back road. It is a gift for which I am eternally thankful.