Blind Pig‘s latest dinner, a veritable festival of barbecue and blues at Hickory Nut Gap Farm, was originally to be held on Friday, April 6.
But, after nearly 20 hours of hard rain fell leading up to the event, much of the venue was filled with standing water and the mud in the dedicated parking areas was deep enough to capture a vehicle or two.
Some griping ensued over the change of plans. Extra tickets for the previously sold-out event were flying around everywhere. With the glut of tickets, people who had searched for them weeks earlier suddenly and paradoxically wondered, “Why would I spend $75 on a barbecue?”
But Saturday broke warm and sunny; it was one of those perfect early spring days when the sun is strong, but the light is soft. The location was perfect — the pig that would be served that day was raised right on the farm, an idyllic piece of property in Fairview. And though the ground had dried, the creek over which guests had to cross to get to the tented dining area rushed strong and loud.
But before diners got to that bridge, there was a small barn filled with live bluegrass music and the smell of woodsmoke belching from big iron grills where Mitchell, Moss and others tended to halved pigs and hotel pans filled with homemade baked beans that would make your grandma blush. Satellites of servers bore trays of Southern-style hors d’oeuvres — pimento-cheese tea sandwiches, pickled okra, catfish stew with oyster crackers, fried quail and Brunswick stew. Small brown bags of crispy pork skin sat nearby, the oil soaking through the paper a little. A steel table held just-roasted oysters and condiments, paper towels and a handful of shuckers that guests tried to wedge between the shells and not into the meat of their hands. But the heat hadn’t been enough to pop many shells open, somehow, so some diners skipped them. A few went overboard and lamented it once the main course was served.
Across the bridge, the tent at the top of the hill would soon be filled with the Memphis-blues sounds of Drink Small (a guy whose repertoire includes some classics and a number called “Tittie Man”) and the smell of barbecue. Ed Mitchell wiped his brow after chopping and seasoning the hog and made his way up from the smokers. He was offered a jar of Madison County moonshine, flavored naturally with green apple and a little lemon, maybe some honey. It was dangerously delicious, and Mitchell whooped. The blues band got down to business, and, once the meal was laid out in the chafing dishes, family-reunion style, the guests got down to business too.
With the perfect spring day as a backdrop, the mountains colored that fleeting young green and the hills dotted with black cows, the crowd laughed and ate from over-full plates on red and white checkered tablecloths. There was South Carolina mustard sauce for that smoky pig, collard greens with ham hock and bacon, hash and white rice, white bread and pickles. The macaroni and cheese was simply ridiculous, just barely outmatched by the humblest of desserts — banana pudding, made by Moss and served in a small Ball jar, was the kind of thing that would inspire a recipe to be passed down generation after generation.
So, why would someone pay $75 for a barbecue, you ask?
Pictures below by Cindy Kunst of Clicks Photography.