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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 annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Vencil Mares

Vencil Mares was born on November 10, 1923. A native Texan, Mr. Mares returned home from World War II and went right into the barbecue business. He began in Elgin, Texas, at the Southside Market in 1948. It was there, working in the smoke pit, that Mares learned the secrets of the barbecue trade, including how to make his much acclaimed sausage. A year later, he purchased what is now Taylor Café in nearby Taylor, Texas, and has been the owner and operator of the establishment ever since. Taylor Café’s hundred-year-old building is as distinctive as Vencil’s ketchup-based barbecue sauce, complete with jukebox, mismatched bar stools, and an antique cash register. Though the Taylor Café has been housed in the same building since it opened, there have been a few changes. Some years ago, for example, Mr. Mares added turkey sausage to his menu. But Taylor Café is still, at its heart, the same barbecue joint that it was in 1948.

Date of interview:
2008-02-28 00:00

Gavin Benke, Remy Ramirez, and Marsha Abrahams

Marsha Abrahams

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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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