SFA began doing oral history work in 2003. One of our first projects was profiling barbecue in Tennessee, and we conducted an interview with Hays Smoke House in Lexington. Dennis Hays had opened his barbecue place just two years before we met him, and he also owned a USDA slaughterhouse that provided whole hogs to barbecue restaurants around the area. He was selling about 75-80 hogs each week. When he opened his own restaurant, he crafted a one-of-a-kind smoker, made from a fuel tank and built with a rotisserie inside. He said it took the hard work out of flipping the hog while it cooked.
In 2007, Rien Fertel revisited the smoke house, now owned by Curt Blankenship. Curt uses the same smoker and practices the whole hog barbecue tradition from the Lexington area. Curt’s oral history is featured in the video here, and you may read the full transcript online.
On August 16, SFA is showcasing Lexington’s whole hog barbecue tradition in Memphis with an event at the Crosstown Arts 430 Gallery. Since the Bluff City is better known red sauce and ribs than for whole hog ‘cue, Zach Parker will bring a taste of whole hog barbecue to share at the event, which features a film and conversation. Learn more about the event, and get your tickets—priced at only $12—here.