Memphis in May

Soon after the National Cornbread Cook-Off, another great Tennessee festival takes place at the opposite end of the state. Memphis in May will celebrate the unique culture of this grand old Mississippi River town. In addition, the festival pays tribute to another country. This year the festival will honor Colombia, showcasing the country’s food and culture.

The month kicks-off with the Beale Street Music Festival which celebrates the music of African-American musicians who have been coming to Memphis’ Beale Street to perform since the1800’s. The festival features well-known artists performing with local musical acts.

In late May, the festival will host The World Champion Barbecue Contest – the largest pork barbecue competition in the world. The cuts, rub, sauce, wood and preparation methods come together to produce amazing varieties, the merits of each hotly debated among aficionados.  And I must pay tribute to those small pit masters who patiently perfect their craft for local tastes and inspire our love for barbecue.

Barbecue sides like slaw, beans, pickles, white bread, cornbread or hushpuppies are another matter for debate and vary all over the South. Not surprising is my love of barbecue on cornbread – the true inspiration for my Open Face Barbecue Sandwich on Jalapeno Cornbread recipe.  I was in Memphis recently and saw that a local barbecue restaurant is making an appetizer featuring layers of crumbled cornbread, beans, slaw, barbecue and sauce. Wish I had thought of that!