Craig David Meek is a former journalist who's been chronicling his quest to try every soul food and barbecue restaurant in the Memphis area on his blog Memphis Que. The blog caught the eye of an editor at the History Press, with the result being Meek's excellent Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce & Soul.
The book begins with Hernando de Soto introducing pigs to the region and covers everything from such old-time Memphis favorites as Brady and Lil's and the barbecue contest to Corky's on QVC. There are some amazing moments in Memphis Barbecue — like Jim Neely speaking quite frankly about his TV celebrity nephew Pat Neely and John Willingham's widow remembering the barbecue legend's last day.
Memphis Barbecue will be released on June 10th, and there will be a launch party and signing at the Booksellers at Laurelwood the same day. I asked Meek about his favorite part of writing the book, among other questions, for the Hungry Memphis blog. His answer is below:
"Since the blog was always done anonymously, with me just coming in as an average Joe and eating, I loved gathering the oral histories that went into the book. Going into the kitchens with people like Jim Neely at Interstate, Barry Pelts at Corky's, Eric Vernon at the Bar-B-Q Shop, Craig Blondis at Central, and Helen Turner at Helen's over in Brownsville and hearing their stories and letting them show me the work that goes into their food. Standing behind the counter with Flora Payne while she makes a spicy jumbo sandwich for me. Going down to the basement at Coletta's to see the shoulders on the pit, then up to the kitchen to watch them make a fresh barbecue pizza, and carrying that pizza straight to their Elvis Room to eat it."