The citizens of north Alabama can rightly brag about our barbeque. Now don't get me wrong, there are numerous underachievers, shortcut takers, and even those who pre-boil their ribs and butts -- a hot place in hell I am sure awaits them. Growing up in Cullman, Alabama, the home of Johnny's Barbeque, and just a bit downwind from the legendary Bob Gibson's in Decatur, I was practically weaned on long- and slow-cooked pork shoulders. The sweet hickory smoke would linger on our clothes on Sundays after stopping by for a few pounds of barbeque, a bucket of barbequed beans, some slaw, and a round of Grapicos, Buffalo Rock ginger ale, or Orange Crush sodas. Johnny's would occasionally catch on fire, the old cement block building so impregnated with pork grease and smoke it would just combust and a whole batch of pork would be sacrificed to the gods of the pit. Tragically they have now moved across the street to a new modern kind of antiseptic-smelling building where the air-freshener mocks my childhood memories, but they still do a respectable job of cooking.
My dad, often working at the Decatur tuberculosis sanitarium, used to swing by Gibson's and invariably bring home a gallon or more of their Brunswick stew, yellow with corn and chicken and chock-full of summer vegetables, and a few halves of barbequed chicken with Gibson's legendary and highly unusual "white sauce." This white sauce was so unconventional it would often spark feuds as to whether it deserved to be on the same table with the more traditional red, sweet, vinegary barbeque sauce. To me it was a no-brainer -- with smoky chicken it was a big winner. Occasionally some of their super-sweet pies, topped with heaps of meringue or sweet whipped cream, would accompany my dad home -- my favorite was the butterscotch.

Closer to home is the fabulous Full Moon Bar-B-Que located here on the south side of town, just up from the housing projects and perfuming our side of town. When you walk in Full Moon, the Malouf brothers are always there with their big handshakes and genuine welcome. Behind the counter, Pat is the field marshal I'd want to lead my troops if ever I had to fight (her troops often sass back at her only to be bullied into flying right). On every inch of the smoky walls are signed photos of Bear Bryant and the glory days of Alabama football. Auburn and UAB, not to mention all the Alabama sports heroes of the last 50 years, have plenty of wall space. But you come to Full Moon for the incredible quality of their barbequed pork -- their shoulders are cooked ever so slowly to a charred crust and meltingly tender well-marbled meat inside. Their ribs have legions of fans, as do their chicken and hamburgers, but I have not yet been able to pass up on the "sliced outside with extra-hot chow-chow."

Now this is as good as a barbeque sandwich gets: mounds of crispy hickory-infused pork with just the right sauce -- not sweet -- and given a nice bite by the nuclear orange spicy "chow-chow" slaw. When I asked one of the Malouf brothers how much meat they put on their sandwich -- was it a third of a pound or some other special weight that gives them their generously proportions? -- he said, "Aww, naw, Frank, we just keep putting meat on till the bread don't touch." Now that's some good barbeque advice!

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