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Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them. ~Edward Roscoe Murrow
I’ll be the first to admit I have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. For example I’m completely sold on the idea of visiting one of those fundamentalist churches which handles snakes as a tourist. I also picked out Maurice’s BBQ for really no other reason than Maurice Bessinger’s long standing and well documented racism. For example, in 1968 the Supreme Court forced him to finally allow Black people into his restaurant. He is also well known to publish pamphlets and his book on why slavery really wasn’t all that bad. In 2000 the South Carolina State Legislature removed the Confederate flag from the capital building and Bessinger decided to raise it up in all his restaurants. You got to had it to the guy. He really did cut off his nose to spite his face. Major national chains all stop carrying his lucrative sauces. Most of his family has disowned him. Seems like his sacrifice was for naught as the restaurants finally removed their confederate flags two years ago permanently.
For all my bravado I was feeling a bit nervous ordering at Maurice’s. The staff there couldn’t have been nicer. And it struck me that my nervousness revealed more about my own prejudice than what I came to see. There was no evidence that any of the team at the restaurants harbored the same views of their boss. Yet I projected my concepts of who they are based on zero evidence other than what I read about their kooky boss. The famous table of pamphlets extolling the virtues of slavery was nowhere to be found. A framed picture greeted all at the door of their “Team member of the Year” and the employee was an African American woman. Other than the book for sale on the table, someone who knew nothing about the history of this place would not see any ghosts of race issues here.
I have many friends up North who take an unkind look at the South. Interesting enough accusations of racism still fly. Of the many people I do know down South, I don’t find this true at all. In fact, many Southerns are very sensitive to the label. It has many social and economic consequences. Alabama is even in the process to deleting an antiquated Jim Crow law that no one follows just to show the global economy that the State is committed to be anti-racism. Our barbs against an ignorant and morally stagnant South can largely be seen as mirror to our own prejudices. We infer based off history and know nothing about modern reality. We judge based off concepts instead of empirically knowing our southern countrymen.
The main question is still, how is the barbecue? Maurice surprised me not simply in their hospitality but the quality of the food. I knew the Bessingers were a dynasty that formulated the State’s signature barbecue style but I didn’t think it’d be this good. The use of hams in the smoked pork was moist and tender, a challenge than many pit masters have taken and failed miserably. I’m not sold on the mustard sauce as it was a bit more sweet and one dimensional than I expected. The mustard sauce went great with the ribs though. The combination of mustard with that deep hickory flavor in the ribs was mind blowing. For anyone on the fence about whether or not to try Maurices, you would do yourself a serious disservice not to.
The side dishes were wonderful. We got the hash, hush puppies and their incredibly addictive fried okra. I couldn’t stop eating the fried okra!
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