On the Way to Jones: 

Watch this: “James Beard Foundation: America’s Classics – Jones BBQ” (3 minutes) 

In 2012, the James Beard Foundation marked 25 years. Held at New York’s Lincoln Center and emceed by Alton Brown, the event was a who’s-who of the food world, with culinary luminaries such as Wolfgang Puck and Jacques Pépin among those attending. Also present? Mr. James Jones of Marianna’s Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, who was awarded the America’s Classic Award—the first, and until 2020, the only James Beard Award-winning restaurant in Arkansas. In case you’re wondering, that award is currently on a wall in the restaurant, resting at the bottom of a crookedly hung shadow box. (Link: youtube.com/ watch?v=xgq0Rm58sPQ

Watch this: CBS: “America’s best BBQ: Century-Old Diner Honored” (4 1/2 minutes) 

If the James Beard Award brought awareness of Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna to the food world, then this 4 1/2 minute spot on the nationally broadcast CBS This Morning opened the kitchen for the rest of the world. Aired the morning after the ceremony, the reporter called it “what may be America’s best barbecue.” (Link: youtube.com/watch?v=e1DBINabAng

Listen to this: The Nod: “An Interview With Michael Twitty” (42 minutes) 

For much of the summer in 2012, food historian Michael Twitty visited sites across the South where his ancestors had once been enslaved—specifically, as he wrote on his crowdfunding page, to “[draw] attention to the bigger picture of the links between food, family, identity and community.” Five years later, he released a book inspired by the experience, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, which earned him two James Beard Awards for his efforts. All of that is to say, if you’re looking for an authority on the history of Southern food, Twitty should be at the top of the list. (Link: gimletmedia.com/shows/thenod/49h54e

 


Over Lunch: 

Read this: Oxford American: “In Through the Back Door,” by John T. Edge (estimated reading time: 12 minutes) 

There aren’t many writers out there who can get to the meat of a story quite like John T. Edge. With this 2010 dispatch published in the Oxford American, the food writer and historian wrote, “To eat in a proper barbecue joint is to engage in a time-travel exercise, wherein cookery is reduced to its most elemental, and the past—both good and ill—emerges from the smoky depths each day. That, it seems, is what Jones Bar-B-Q Diner promises. And that is what Jones BarB-Q Diner delivers.” Don’t forget to print off an extra copy just in case lunch gets messy. (Link: oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/246-in-through-theback-door)


On the Way to Lassis: 

Watch this: Southern Foodways Alliance: “Fish Ribs,” by Joe York (4 minutes)

A few years back, when filmmaker Joe York came to town working on a series of short documentary films for the Southern Foodways Alliance, Rex Nelson, one of the leading authorities on Arkansas fare, took him over to Lassis Inn. Nearly 10 years later, to watch and rewatch that film is to feel something truly special—and that thing is hunger. (Link: southernfoodways.org/film/fish-ribs-a-film-bite

Listen to this: NPR: “The Club From Nowhere: Cooking for Civil Rights” (6 minutes) 

Although we’re not aware of any publication that gives a full accounting of Lassis Inn’s role during the civil rights movement (the extent to which the restaurant made the papers before the early 2000s seems to have been limited to a 1961 burglary when a thief made off with the earnings of two pinball machines and 28 cartons of cigarettes), it’s a well-known fact that Daisy Bates and others used the restaurant as a meeting place during the mid-20th century. For a better sense of how food played a role during those years, we’d recommend this radio feature on Alabama’s Georgia Gilmore. (Link: npr.org/2005/03/04/4509998/ the-club-from-nowhere-cooking-forcivil-rights)

Listen to this: Gastropod: “Here’s Why You Should Care About Southern Food” (49 minutes)

Well, you’ve heard from both John T. Edge and Michael Twitty—and now you can hear them together, with Twitty addressing the past and Edge the present. As the show notes read: “Listen in to learn why the history of Southern food is far more complex than today’s stereotypes of biscuits and gravy would have you believe— and why its future should matter to us all.” (Link: gastropod.com/hereswhy-you-should-care-about-southernfood


Over Dinner: 

Read this: Sync Weekly: “Fried fish With a Side of History” 

Although this Q&A with owner Elihue Washington Jr. wasn’t the first bit of media attention Lassis got, it does give a nice broad-strokes portrait of the place. A few of the more interesting revelations include, “The blue booths in the eatery were built in the 1940s, and the wooden building that houses the Lassis Inn was moved 12 feet to the west when Interstate 30 was constructed. There’s been some new paint and new floors. But that’s about it for changes.” (Link: arkansasonline.com/news/2014/aug/12/fried-fishside-history)

Although it may be a minute before you make any long-distance, food-focused forays, there’s no harm in planning ahead. Get a jump on your next Delta adventure by reading our road-trip travelogue: arkansaslife.com/prairieroad-companions