I’d like to introduce myself to ya’, folks. I am the self-appointed, Mississippi Queen, owner of Mississippi Queen Foods. I actually reside in Toronto, Canada, now, but I was born, and raised in Pearl River County, Mississippi, and I get myself, back home, to visit family, and friends, a few times each year, ‘cause ya’ know I can’t go long, without standin’ on some Southern soil.
Now, when I get home, I spend my time eatin’; listenin’ to the blues; eatin’; explorin’ the Great State of Mississippi; eatin’; hangin’ with the family; and eatin’. Did I mention I like to eat? Now, if ya’ travelin’ down to Mississippi, as many of you know, us Mississippians are known for our Southern food, but I gotta tell ya’ somethin’, for those of ya’, folks, who have not yet spent any time yet, in the Great State of Mississippi.
First of all, ya’ gotta get ya’ self there, to really, truly experience, and understand what it is about the flavor of the South, not only in the food, but the flavor in the ‘way of life’. The people are considered to be the ‘friendliest’ around, and they are more than happy to welcome ya’ in, and show you all that Mississippi has to offer, and trust me, there is lots!
I was down in Clarksdale, Mississippi, considered to be the Birthplace of the Blues, back in April, of this year, for the annual Juke Joint Festival, which is one of the best times of year, in Mississippi, if ya’ ask me. The weather’s warm, but not too hot, just yet, and at Juke Joint Festival, people come from all over the world, to see living legends, play the blues. Some of these players, go back to the beginning of the blues, and this is an ‘up front and close’, intimate festival, ya’ should put on ya’ list, especially if you’re a lover of the blues.
Now, while I was there, I had to get some food, because, as ya’ know, I love to eat. I was walkin’ along, and approachin’ the corner of Issaquena and N. Edwards Avenues, at 317 Issaquena Avenue, and I could smell that distinctive smell. It was smoke billowin’ out of a half barrel smoker, right on the street, and it was intoxicatin’! If ya’ know what I mean, I felt weak in the knees! It smelled amazin’, and I did not have far, to follow my nose, which brought me right outside ‘The Pit’, Bar-B-Que joint.
Now, lemme give ya’, folks, some unsolicited advice ‘bout travelin’ and eatin’ in Mississippi. Ya’ probably done heard this one, ‘cause I ain’t the one who made it up, but ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. That’s all I gotta say. I mean if ya’ look at a book, and it don’t even look like its been read before, must not be so good a book, right?
I guess I’m sayin’ some of the best places to eat in Mississippi, ain’t necessarily the fanciest of places. I mean we got places all fancy, you betcha, but don’t skip over those Mom & Pop joints along the way, ‘cause there’s some real good eatin’ to be had there. Take it from the Mississippi Queen.
So, I guess I’m paintin’ the picture, of this joint…
I saw a couple of guys, lingerin’ about, on the outside, but the place did not quite yet appear to be open. So, they look over at me, and give me the typical Mississippi, ‘hey, how ya’ll doin’?’, to which I reply, ‘I’m all good. Whatcha got on that smoker?’ ‘Oh, we ain’t got nuttin’ on it’.
I’m like, thinkin’ to myself, ‘now I might look all crazy runnin’ around this here town in my high heels, all dressed up, with a parasol over my head’, but I ain’t plum stupid! They can’t tell I’m from Mississippi. They tryin’ to fool me! I smell a smoker, and I ain’t leavin’ ‘till I know what’s on it!’
Now, I’m a woman on a mission. So, I mosey on up a bit closer into the joint, and I am quickly introduced to Little Hogg Jr., who owns The Pit, and his help, for the day. So, once we all met, and we good friends, I’m right back at that smoker, askin’, again, what’s on it.
Little Hogg looks at me, and flashes one of those smiles, that goes completely across his face, all warm, and friendly, and he knows he has a captive audience, with me, and I can tell, he can’t wait to let me in on a little secret. He’s like a kid, anxious to show off a new toy on Christmas Day!
He grabs his keys, and tells me ‘come awnn…’, and off I follow Hogg, wonderin’ what the heck is so secret, it’s all under lock and key’, until I see it….the locked door, which he quickly opens to reveal an electric, commercial smoker.
Aaahhh, that’s his secret! He’s got this nailed down to a science! He’s using his wood fired smoker, out front, to ‘reel ‘em in’! What an idea! He’s brilliant. Then, behind the scenes, he’s got a workhorse of a smoker, which he is insanely proud of! He shows her off, walking me through his process.
Then, just as I think my tour is done, he opens another door, which I quickly recognize as the door to his
kitchen! Now, we gettin’ good! Out he pulls, his ‘pulled pork’, and the ribs! This is Southern hospitality at its finest! I’m back in the kitchen with Hogg Jr., and he has made a full on pulled pork sandwich topped with his coleslaw, and a side of ribs, fresh off the smoker!
I am literally in heaven, Hogg Heaven, that is, and I can’t believe what I have just walked into! Yes, the meat was so tender, falling off the bone, and meltin’ in my mouth! I knew it would be the case, just from the smell. I could not compliment him enough for his BBQ abilities.
This is when Hogg, shared with me, his family history around BBQ. See, the BBQ rub he uses, is a Sixth Generation recipe, originally developed by his Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, who was a slave, on one of the plantations, in Louisiana. Her father, was the plantation owner, and for this reason, he ended up sending her to culinary school, in Louisiana, which was basically unheard of, for her time!
She developed this rub, and it has been handed down, through the family, through the years, and now Hogg Jr., uses it for his infamous BBQ, and even sells it, by the pound, if you ask. No, I did not get the recipe, nor did I even ask! I’m still livin’, ain’t I? I think it’s safe to say, he guards it as much as he does his smoker, and I don’t blame ‘em!
I returned to The Pit, the very next day, because this location served as a venue for many of the legendary blues players, so I enjoyed this food, two days in a row, but there was no complainin’ ‘bout that from me!
Meetin’ Little Hogg Jr., and gettin’ the grand tour, of The Pit, was one of my highlights on this trip to Clarksdale. I walked away, with not only a big, huge, smile on my face, proud to be a Mississippian, but also a full belly, and even a T-shirt, given to me, from Hogg, which read, ‘Blues Comes Naturally..Clarksdale, Mississippi’.
Folks, that’s Southern hospitality for ya’. I can’t encourage you, enough, to stop in, and pay Little Hogg Jr. a visit ya’ self. He’s so personable, ya’ can even give him a call, and let ‘em know ya’ on ya’ way, at 662-902-0558. Just be sure to tell ‘em that red-headed Mississippi Queen sent ya’!
Until next time…
Wishin’ ya’ lots of good eatin’…
Connie Rouble, the Mississippi Queen,
Mississippi Queen Foods