Southern Living, June 2013

It was a perfect Saturday for a barbecue sandwich in Humboldt, Tennessee, late last July: clear blue skies and pleasantly humid temps. But I stood waist-deep in all that remained of the pit at Sam's Bar-B-Q. Like a barbecue archeologist, I set to pickax-hacking through layers of mortar, cemented hardwood ash, and hog fat, attempting to find the foundational brick masonry layer buried beneath the detritus collected from 25 years of smoking pork shoulders.

Just weeks before, Sam's pit room caught fire and, because swine grease explodes like napalm, incinerated the restaurant down to its cinder block walls. Over two days, I joined a couple dozen volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance, the Fatback Collective, and Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q to help rebuild this tiny smoke shack in western Tennessee. Barbecue devotees came from across town and as far away as South Carolina, all endeavoring to resurrect a bit of barbecue history.

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