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Barbeque and Fond Memories by Citizen Writer, Alma Womack
American Citizen 6/6/2021 11:55 AM

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Our sense of smell can trigger memories long hidden, and take us back to times long gone by. Smelling the blooms of a certain shrub puts me in the first-grade classroom of Mrs. Frances Taliaferro, Block Elementary School, when I was a perpetually unhappy first grader, being stuck in a classroom while my little brothers were roaming free at home.



The smell of creosote places me firmly back at Louisiana College in Pineville, LA, where the creosote odor permeated everything in the town. And Johnson’s baby powder has followed me through the years, from caring for younger siblings, to my children, to Miss Liza and the grandsons, Woodrow, Drew and JG


The scent of a freshly cut watermelon is one of my very favorite scents, for it always transports me to the summers of my childhood, when our grandfather, Ray Dowdy, Papa to us, would bring ice cold watermelons home from town to make our afternoons a little cooler. There was an ice-house in Jonesville back then, and they always kept a supply of cold watermelons in stock. The melons were large, round, and dark green, not like the long pale green melons we mostly have now. And they were so sweet and so good, and they were furnished by our beloved grandfather.


Another summer smell that I associate with summer and Papa is the scent of barbecue, for when my brothers, Nub and Doug, and I were middling-sized children, Papa decided to buy a barbecue pit and learn to cook in the great outdoors. We three were his official helpers.


Since he generally worked six days a week, the only day that he could cook was on Sunday. Mama was pretty strict about church day, but when Papa announced his intention to cook, we were given the Sunday off.


Preparation for the big cookout started about 8:30 in the morning. First, we’d get the grill nice and clean, for Mimi would not allow her food to touch a grill with any specks on it. 


After we cleaned the grill, under Papa’s supervision, it would be time for morning coffee. Papa was always full of stories, so coffee breaks would sometimes last thirty minutes or more. While we were on break, Mimi was doing the work of assembling tools, oil, water, meat, and sauce, all the time wondering how it was that Papa barbecued, but she did all the work. Well, she did a lot of the work, but we associates had the toughest job.


For some reason, Papa would not bank coals on one side of the pit, and let the meat cook slowly on the other side. He wanted the grill turned continually; he said the meat tasted better that way.


We kids would have to take turns, rotating the grill with a stick, for one person couldn’t stand the heat or smoke for very long. We’d turn and turn and turn and every so often, Papa would move the meat pieces a little closer or a little farther apart from each other, to facilitate the cooking process.


While one of us turned the grill, the other two were continually fetching for Papa more coffee or water or a package of Camels or something to fan away insects or smoke. After an eternity of revolutions, it would finally be time to brush on the sauce for the last thirty minutes of cooking.


It was almost always chicken that Papa barbecued. He’d do sausage, too, and sometimes would try beef or venison. Once he even barbecued a rabbit, as a side dish to the chicken, but even us kids wouldn’t eat it.


When the meat was finally done, he’d make a grand show of taking it off the grill and putting it on a platter for one of us to carry inside, where Mama and Mimi had been busy getting salads, bread, tea and desserts to go with the barbecue. Papa would then go inside to his easy chair, light a Camel, and sit under the cooling breeze of the fan, satisfied after his morning of hard work.


Of course, we always bragged on his barbecue and thought it the very best in the world. Nobody could cook like Papa. Nobody could con us into working all morning like Papa.


Since those days, I have eaten barbecue from Texas to North Carolina, but never with the satisfaction or appreciation that those fine meals cooked by Papa brought to us kids on beautiful Black River, summers ago.



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