This week, we've been calling all the barbecue restaurants on our list to gather the rest of the map data. This involves asking each restaurant owner a series of 16 questions and explaining a little about the map as we go along. We get through as many restaurants as we can between their lunch and dinner rushes and analyze and sort the data the rest of the time. This is an all-day affair that will last through next week.
With so many restaurants to get through (well over 300 now), it's easy to get caught up in the work and start thinking about these restaurants in terms of numbers, instead of places. But the people and their stories bring us back every time. Everyone we've talked to has been so gracious and eager to tell us about their barbecue. (Ok, we did have the phone slammed down one time, but we'll get to them somehow.) But the man who I just talked with at Cove Creek BBQ & Grocery in Rutherfordton just reminded me of the heart and soul of this map.
Mike has been running the BBQ joint out of the Rutherfordton gas station for two years, but he went to the country store, where the restaurant got its start, back when he was a boy. The store was a farm supply with moonshine in the basement and a caged squirrel out front that the kids could feed by buying some peanuts. The recipe for Mike's "Miss Daisy" sauce (an Eastern-style barbecue sauce) came from Miss Daisy who ran a sandwich shop down the road, and when she passed, he started using her recipe in remembrance. Mike is very proud of his barbecue, and he's also very proud of his family. He told me about two of his sons who live down the road from Paul and me, one in Mt. Pleasant, where we grew up.
Mike's stories really made his barbecue restaurant come alive and they brought me back from my questionnaire comma. Mike has a lot to do with why we decided to make a barbecue map in the first place. It really is about the people, their stories, and the traditions they are carrying on. Aside from how much we love the taste of it, that is what drew us to barbecue. To us, barbecue is much more than pulled pork piled high on a bun. It's a way of life, a history, an identity for so many people, and that's the other part of the love and appreciation we want to spread.
Thank you, Mike, for that reminder. And thank you to all those out there who are living their dream every day, sun-up to sun-down, tending those wood coals and those restaurants, telling your stories, and helping us remember. You are an inspiration to us, and we do this for you.