“The story of barbecue is the story of America.” ~Vince Staten
“My favorite animal is steak.” ~Fran Lebowitz
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” ~Calvin Trillin
It’s been my belief that every flavor of hatred has a history. If I wanted to understand it, all I needed was a recipe. So I drove down to Mississippi and bought some squash and greens. I bought pig’s feet from Memphis, my favorite seasonings from Laramie and sweet potatoes from Southern Cali. I then drove to Florida and begged a smiling woman to share with me
a recipe. When I finally returned home, my kitchen seemed to recoil. I pretended it was from excitement. My blood was hot.
I followed the recipe to the letter, and as the aroma began to rise, my eyes began to roll back. My veins were throbbing and I did not know why. When the dish was finished, when it entered my mouth, I was disturbed by its flavor. This was too good. Every mouthful and swallow felt like my hands on the wheel of a truck dragging someone that did not belong. I stuffed myself with this elixir. My belly was bursting and starving. At the point I succumbed to the stupor, that’s when the visions began. I could see my Jewish ex-girlfriend, she was crying in front of a colored boy that looked something like me. When had I become so ugly. When had my hands developed such audacity, touching her skin like it belonged to me. When she cried into my arm I vomited and did not know why.
I saw myself at age seven. I was kissing a boy even blacker than me. I grabbed my seven year old neck and dragged him to the nearest pile of dog shit. My hands were shaking. I needed something to fuck. It was 1944 and I saw a herd of sickly Japs lounging around in a camp. I paused to lick a flag. In 1923 some woman tried to vote and I did not know why. In Oakland there was a riot. My arm was a nightstick. I chose a boy that reeked of salsa. I beat him the national anthem. I sculpted his bones a documentation. His blood and teeth were singing now we live here…and we do not know why.
When the meal was digested, when the stupor was gone, I howled from the withdrawal. The ingredients were all used up, and the elixir was from a source I could not supply. I didn’t know what it would take to expel that which my history had given. I didn’t know how hard it could be to let a hatred die. I begged Memphis for forgiveness. Took a steak knife and carved myself a cross. I cried, have mercy on my marches, my resilience, my faith. I have worn the tongue of the lost. At last, I understand.