Famous barbecue gets kids through Harvard and AM

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 13, 2003

Just past Craig Industrial Park, at the intersection where the Old Montgomery Highway turns into Highway 80 East, Old South Barbecue issues an aromatic invitation. So inviting is the mouth-watering fragrance of hickory smoke and simmering meat that passing traffic often &uot;jam on their vehicle brakes, turn around and head back here to get some barbecue&uot; says owner Jesse Anderson.

&uot;Be times the parking lot is full of transfer trucks, those drivers eating here, some packing up barbecue to go along with them. I get cards from all over from folks who ate my barbecue. Got one lady in California wants me to come put on a barbecue for her daughter’s wedding.&uot;

Pausing to take a look at the slab of ribs on the pit rack, Anderson forked them with the expertise of long practice. &uot;Little bit longer,&uot; he said, &uot;not quite ready.&uot;

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Then, arms folded over his white canvas apron, eyes fixed on the cooking meat, he reminisced about his life.

Ten years ago Anderson had a barbecue place in the Sardis area, &uot;open year-round every day but Sunday, ‘cept it be busy for something special, then I be open that day, too,&uot; he explained.

His menu has not varied in his 36 years as a barbecue master: ribs, shoulders, chopped pork sides, and chicken and beef for those who don’t eat pork. The method of preparation hasn’t changed either.

Cooking time is about 14 hours, according to Anderson. &uot;When I can reach in there and pull the bone out of the meat I know it’s done.&uot;

Barbecue sauce is usually put on the meat, whether it’s pork, beef or chicken, after the cooking is done, and an extra small cup of it is provided with each order when it’s sold. The sauce recipe is Anderson’s secret. &uot;I’ll just say my sauce is vinegar-based, has some lemon, black pepper, maybe a taste of brown sugar, and it cooks for six hours.&uot;

Anderson’s wife Barbara works with him at Old South Barbecue, along with several other helpers. They are the parents of five children. An older daughter is a graduate of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and is now in medical school at Harvard University.

A son is a student at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, and another son and daughter live in Atlanta.

Their youngest girl, who is 16, is a student at the School of Math and Science in Mobile.

The Andersons’ granddaughter Kiaria, 4, lives with them. Already knowing how to spell and write her name, the bright little girl has her feet on the path to higher education.

Note: The annual barbecue of The Old Depot Museum is Wednesday, Oct. 15. Priced at $6 a pound, the meat will be available at Memorial Stadium from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance from museum trustees or at the museum itself between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Drive-up sales are welcome on Wednesday. Jesse Anderson is the barbecue master this year.