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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.


Ben Wash

Originally from Mississippi, Ben Wash started cooking when he was seven years old. He moved to Austin as a teenager in the late 1950s and learned to grill brisket from older friends. His mother cultivated his love and talent, and at twenty-seven years old, with a bank loan of five hundred dollars and a good eye for bargains, Ben started the Long Branch in his garage. His first building, a Western-inspired place where horses tied up, was built in 1971 and was named after the saloon on the television show Gunsmoke. Thirty-six years later, Ben’s Long Branch resides in the heart of old East Austin and, as a barbecue institution in this community, Ben believes in keeping the history and roots of the area alive. Ben talks candidly about any subject from brisket prices to integration and, whether you’re in the mood for pork ribs or stories about East Austin development and the quickly changing character of the neighborhood, Ben knows a lot about both. He is a kind and vivacious man, whose positive energy comes through in his food. Ben left his Long Branch in 2002 only to return to a business that was failing without his presence. The restaurant is successful once again, and Ben is working hard to keep the East Austin spirit alive.

Date of interview:
2007-03-30 00:00

Andrew Busch (primary) and Marvin Bendele with Anna K. Martin

Marvin Benedle

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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.


Bill Smith Crooks Corner

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