A Taste of The South

By Brian Atkinson

When I started considering what would describe the southern cultural landscape, barbecue was one of the first things that came to my mind. Barbecue reflects the South well, as the region has a lot of diversity, but there are common ties that make the South one entity. Such characteristics include an easier way of living, hospitality, and a love for tradition, among other things. Similarly, barbecue is common throughout the South, but it takes many different forms, from the mustard-based pork in South Carolina, to the vinegar-based pork in North Carolina, to the sweet tomato based pork farther west, and of course beef brisket in Texas.

When I first thought about meeting Keith Allen and asking him if I could focus on his restaurant, I was extremely nervous – I am not a guy who is comfortable meeting new people, and asking someone to inconvenience himself for me made it even worse! But I plucked up the courage to ask and was surprised to see that he was happy to let me roam around the pit and restaurant at my leisure. Given how much of a fan I am of Allen & Son (and barbecue in general), this was a dream come true!

Keith was very intimidating at first – he is a tall, broad-shouldered man whose sternness can be, well, intimidating. But after a couple visits and a few hours of conversation, it became clear that this is a man who, yes, is stern, but because of it he is also very wise and thoughtful. It seems that all of those mornings with his barbecue and his ruminations have made him a guy who understands a heck of a lot. They have also made him kind, quick to laugh, and extremely slow to pass judgment on others.

Meeting Tammy Allen was much less intimidating, because she exudes love and hospitality to the point that during one visit I found myself enjoying a free slice of cake and a scoop of her homemade ice cream that she had happily supplied me with rather than doing my project, insisting that I just had to try it. It was an easy sell!

Seeing Allen & Son from both angles has been a treat, and I am truly glad to have met Keith and Tammy Allen. My time photographing Allen & Son Barbecue has done what I once thought impossible – made me love the place even more.

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