2012 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame: Helen Turner | Southern Foodways Alliance arrow left envelope headphones search facebook instagram twitter flickr menu rss play circle itunes calendar


Each year, the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates men and women whose lifework enriches Southern food culture. Seven SFA awards and honors recognize these cultural standard bearers.

2012 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame: Helen Turner

Pitmistress Helen Turner of Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, Tennessee, won the 2012 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. Each year, with the support of the Fertel Foundation, SFA honors an unsung hero or heroine of traditional foodways by commissioning a short film about his/her work. Joe York’s film Helen’s Bar-B-Q played to a rapt crowd, with Mrs. Turner seated in the front row. When the film ended with Mrs. Turner saying, “I’m Helen Turner, and I am the pitmaster,” the audience went wild. Here’s a hint: if you make it up to Brownsville and try one of her pulled-pork sandwiches, you’ll go wild again.



The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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