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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. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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< Back to Oral History project: Memphis Tennessee BBQ Project


Brown's Bar-B-Q

Essay by Joe York

Brown's Bar-B-QI walk in and wait in line behind the boy and the girl. They order and step back from the counter. I step forward and speak into the holes bored through the bullet proof plexiglass that separates the kitchen and its customers. It feels more like a box office than a barbecue joint.

“Two Cokes, please.”

I step back and stand by the boy.

“Are you a terrorist,” he asks out of nowhere.

“No, are you?”

The girl slaps a hand over his mouth.

“Shut up,” she says to him.

Brown's Bar-B-QHer hand holds his voice, but it’s not enough to hide the smile that creeps around the creases of her grip.

I step back and look through the hot winged window to see what Amy’s doing outside. She’s standing in front of the sign, camera stuck like a sty to her eye.

Looking at that sign now, I see the history behind it. I see the outline of the sign-bearing swine hidden beneath the coat of the Complete Breakfast. Brown's Bar-B-Q

For years these painted-over pigs stood for the first last name in Memphis barbecue, Loeb’s. But Loeb’s didn’t last. Bought out one by one by places like Brown’s, the Loeb’s legacy lingers in the shape of these signs.

Looking at it then, as I walked out with the Cokes cold in my hands, it looked more like a boa constrictor digesting an ice cream cone.

Date of interview:
2002-01-01 00:00

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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.


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