Posted in Mississippi on December 17, 2011 by Victoria Allman
We drove through the pecan colors of the Mississippi Delta in late fall. We passed the barren cut remains of cotton fields that were in bloom as recently as last week and dried rusted oak trees that shed their leaves as fast as the levees had broken. Although the skies were bright blue, the scenery was brown.
We were on our way to Memphis in search of blues music and barbecues. I wasn’t sure which Patrick was more excited about. The week before, we’d seen a sign reading Caution: You are entering a Ribs and Biscuit Zone, but really, that warning could apply to all our expeditions in the south.
The plan was to eat nothing but barbecue for four days.
The day sweltered like only a day in Mississippi can. There was not a single whistle of wind. I felt like Spanish moss on the live oak trees, drooping over the branches, unable to move. I dragged my feet across the open parking lot to the farmer’s market, feeling my skin sizzle with each step.
In the shade of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi overpass, a woman sat on an overturned orange paint pail, protected from the suns rays burning between her tight cornrows. Her shoulders hunched forward, and her elbows rested on her knees. Her fingers were thick and cracked with years of hard work, yet nimble as she used her thumbs to split apart dark purple bean pods. She ran her index finger down the pocket, extracting the green-tinged beans. The same deep purple color marked the center of the bean surrounded by a pink oblong splotch.
“Are these black-eyed peas?” I asked.