The men in my family were great cooks as much as the ladies. As a boy, I would hunt and fish with my father and grandfathers. My father, Roosevelt Luke, Jr., and his father, Roosevelt Luke, Sr., were avid fishermen. My father and I would get all the gear together for our trip on Friday evening after he got home from work. I would help pack the lunches for us– usually 2 sandwiches, 2 sodas, and some chips. We would set out before dawn for Wallace Lake. My father knew that lake like the back of his hand. One of my fondest memories was the time that I caught 102 bream! I was so proud when we got home. Momma and my two sisters came out to see what we’d caught and Daddy told them that I’d caught the most. I learned how to fish with a pole, as well as a rod and reel. It was serious business once Daddy got me my own personal rod and reel.
Whatever we caught, we would go out to the back porch, spread out some newspaper and clean. It was an incredible feeling to actually eat what I had caught. Daddy would let me help him cook the fish. I learned how to season and bread it as well as make sure my oil wasn’t too hot. He would make the pieces come out golden brown, crispy and delicious. We would take plates to some of the elderly people in the neighborhood as well as relatives that lived nearby.
Thomas Jernigan, Sr. was my maternal grandfather and he taught me how to hunt and dress game. I never knew what a smokehouse was or what it did as a kid. I just remember that he would hang meat out there to smoke and cure. Anything that came from that smokehouse tasted fantastic! Ham, pork shoulder, beef brisket, you name it and my granddaddy could make it taste like something directly from the BBQ gods. I learned all about the flavors that the various woods used for smoking would give to the meat. He taught me the difference between smoking and grilling. Some of our neighbors would ask my grandfather to smoke meat for them. The holidays were a busy time around the old smokehouse. It was a much simpler time back then. Every time I smoke meat I’m reminded of those childhood days and the mouthwatering flavors that I was fortunate to learn to create.