Michele Page: Blues barbecue leaves lasting impression on 4-year-old

Michele Page

It’s no small wonder watching children grow. When they’re very young, they learn by leaps and bounds, and the things they learn shape their whole lives.

Young people join various clubs like 4-H and become involved in the agriculture industry later in their lives because it touches something within them.

My children continue to amaze me. Last weekend at the 23rd Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, Madison, my youngest, didn’t let me down. Jay Hollowell invited us down to the barbecue contest, a tradition as old as the festival, and Madi saw her first cooked whole hog.

She flipped out when she saw the slaughtered sow on the grill - ears, legs, tail and all; proclaiming that people were “gross,” to eat animals. 

”Poor pig,” she said.

We held a conversation for quite some time over the fact that she eats animals every day when she has her helping of meat with her meals.

”I’ll never eat meat again,” she stated in her loudest 4-year old screech. When we entered the tasting area, everyone offered her a tidbit of meat, but her response was to shake her head no. I think at that moment she was firm in her decision to forsake meat forever.

I explained Madi’s predicament to a very nice lady who helped me encourage Madi to try some ribs. We’ll never know the team who cooked such a tender and delicately flavored piece of pig, but I have to say the barbecue was very good.  It barely clung to the bone and was so very sweet. Madi cautiously tasted the rib and said “Ohh that’s good!”

She even asked for more and told the lady that her favorite part was the “black, crispy part.”

Of course, the barbecue connoisseurs enriched her little life by explaining that her favorite chard piece of the meat was actually called the bark. After tasting some more morsels of the South’s favorite style of cooking, her vegetarian claims soon disappeared. 

Now, she tells her friends that her favorite part of barbecue is the bark. Being 4 and 5 years young, they don’t think she’s quite right in the head. Madi told me her friends said she was mixing her meats up with the dogs. It’s funny how children look at terms and phrases.

Madi’s run in with the cooked pig almost turned her vegetarian, but that hasn’t stopped her from asking to go to the festival again and again, day after day. Yesterday, today, tomorrow or next year is one concept her young mind hasn’t quite grasped.

Madi and her peers at R&J’s Kiddie College were able to visit the blues fest during a field trip on the first day of the event and learn first hand a bit of their heritage and culture. While the festival is great for the local economy and blues fans, I don’t think people realize the young minds that visit get to experience new and exciting ideas and events.

Another of Madi’s favorite stops at the fest was the forestry booth with Smokey the Bear. In the past, the furry critter always brought her to tears. This year she was very brave - running to Smokey, quickly touching his fur.

”See. I’m not afraid anymore, Mamma,” she said.

I know Madi learned a lot from her trip and the experience has shaped her forever. She now thinks she’s a carnivore and even demands bark on her baloney sandwiches and hot dogs. 

I think I’ll name a sandwich after her that will be a completely charred concoction called the Madi Bark Special and serve it to her on days she has the blues. It’s up to her to decide if she wants it today, tomorrow or next week.

The Daily World