Once a year, the Methodist Church in my neighborhood has an Old-Fashioned Pit BBQ. The BBQ is a fundraiser for the church and local Scout Group. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to attend. Sometimes you show up for fundraisers to be supportive. In this instance, the BBQ is delicious! The BBQ starts at 11 am and ends at 4 pm or sooner if the food runs out.
I need to emphasize that this is an Old-Fashioned Pit BBQ. Over the years, the church has built a BBQ pavilion that houses a row of BBQ pits under a wooden pavilion atop a concrete foundation. A long rectangular box of red earth bricks mortared three feet high sits on the foundation. Fifteen pits six inches deep are sunk into the top of the brick like a long countertop covered in rows of kitchen sinks. A cast iron cook grate covers each pit. Making old-fashioned pit BBQ takes good meat, skilled cooks, and time. The BBQ is always mid-October when the Atlanta weather frequently drops to the 30s. A loyal cadre of cooks, bundled in jackets with music and fire for comfort, light the charcoal the evening before the BBQ and begin the long, cold night watch.
BBQ day is one of my favorite for a long run. For the past few years, I have been in a Fall training block with a long run scheduled, and I never struggle out the door early for that long run. Today, I ran 20 miles in a loop around the Methodist Church. Throughout the early morning, the smell of BBQ hangs in the air. The smoke from the pits billows beneath the pavilion canopy, blowing in whatever direction of the wind. I can smell the meat cooking half a mile downwind.
My running loop passed the church and the BBQ band of brothers every 45 to 60. As dawn broke and the sun warmed the air, I could see a cloud of white smoke hanging over the Methodist Church. Each time I pass, the crowd around the BBQ and church steadily grows. First, friends and families of the cooks arrive to admire the night-time progress. Then, the morning setup crew begins a well-rehearsed routine of tasks. Then, the Scouts arrive. Their part is cooking the Brunswick stew in a manner only as a group of Scouts could. There are four enormous black kettle pots out of your imagination of a fairy tale with brewing witches. With long, wooden canoe oars, the Scout cook and stir their stew.
After a long Saturday morning run, I often plop on the couch and catch up on TV shows. Not today! I laced up my tennis shoes, grabbed my oldest son, and followed my nose upwind. At 11 am, the doors to the church open. We purchased tickets online, but the church still converts the scannable QR code to a paper raffle tickets… an emphasis on old fashioned. The ticket becomes a plate loaded with BBQ, cole slaw, bread, chips, and Brunswick stew. Some people eat at the church, and others head home. Everyone sees a friend or neighbor and takes a second to say hello…emphasis on the old fashioned.