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Monday, April 15, 2024

BBQ reviewed by a ‘fat boy from Pineywoods’

By Jared Aaron, Bama BBQ Reviews

Editor’s note: Jared Aaron has been a friend to The Community Journal since it was founded in August 2022. TCJ has often used his aerial photos and appreciates all he does for our community. We have decided to start sharing his Bama BBQ Reviews to our page, but asked him to share a little bit about how the reviews started as a way to kick off his content. Be sure to follow AirAlabama and Bama BBQ Reviews. 

“Get in the car, Bryant. We need to go pick up one more Christmas gift for your mom,” was how this all started for me. He and I were going to Simmons Sporting Goods in Bessemer a week or two before Christmas of 2023.  

I know it sounds like my then 12-year-old outdoorsman and I might’ve had other motives for going to Simmons, but it is a more eclectic place than you might think. They have a pretty fair selection of clothing and accessories aimed at women. I imagine this is by design, as well as a smart way for the fellows to convince their better halves to go to the sporting goods place with them.

After looking around for a while, we found a bag that looked like a fuzzy, fleece pillow which, to my surprise, contained a fuzzy, fleece blanket that is the ideal road tripping size. LaShae used it this past weekend on our trip through Tennessee into North Carolina. Mission accomplished.

Bryant and I worked up a pretty serious appetite at Simmons, so we decided to head a few streets over to one of my favorite spots for pork. Bob Sykes BBQ is a staple of Alabama barbecue joints — great meats, great sauce, great sides and fantastic desserts. In my humble opinion, Bob Sykes is the measuring stick. In my mind, I’m always comparing other places to Bob Sykes from the pork to the overall atmosphere. Bryant said, “Hey, let’s review the food.” That’s how it all began in earnest, but the story goes back just a little further. 

Bryant has helped me with photos and videos before. We tried shooting hunting videos for a couple of years. It was fun to do when you had deer, ducks or turkeys, but quickly turned tough when there wasn’t much action. Live wild animals don’t always share our artistic vision. This year was especially slow on the deer hunting front. A severe drought forced most of our deer onto neighboring properties to find water, and they never really came back. Still, I spent a lot of time hunting, but rarely saw anything. I lugged my camera gear in and out of the woods an embarrassing number of times. My hat’s off to the folks who film hunts for a living. It can be really tough sledding. 

Even before the hunting videos, I was interested in photography and videography. You might want to brace yourself for this revelation, but I have no formal training. I’ve read a number of books and watched many, many hours of YouTube in order to become the very amateur videographer typing these words today. A former boss turned friend would show me photos he had taken with his Nikon crop sensor camera. I wanted to create such magic with a camera. I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D3400, probably 10 years ago. I have bought, sold and traded several DSLR’s, mirrorless, camcorders, 360 cameras, drones and action cameras since then.

The drones are probably my biggest problem. I’ve always loved the unique views you can get from a drone. Some years ago, my friend Greg bought a DJI Phantom 3. It’s a very hulking beast compared to the Mini 3 Pro that I use now. This one will fit in a hoodie pocket. Greg let me take over the remote once he got his Phantom in the air and above the tree line. I knew this was something special. I ended up buying it from him a few months later. I was taking aerial shots and sharing them fairly consistently on Facebook. So much, that I learned that some of my Facebook friends were not always excited to see yet another drone photo. I decided to create a page to share only my drone work. After a few days of mulling over names for the page, I settled on AirAlabama. Today, nearly 14,000 people follow that page. I guess there are some nerds like me out there. 

Back to the pork. After the first BBQ review at Bob Sykes, I knew this had the potential to be really fun. Pulled pork doesn’t run off to the neighbors’ properties to find water, after all. I also learned that people’s opinions of what makes good bbq vary wildly, and that there are some opinions out there that are stronger than a garlic milkshake. I decided to get serious about it. I was posting on AirAlabama’s socials for a few weeks and gaining followers like crazy, which still shocks me. This annoyed and confused my drone nerd enthusiast peeps. Then, when I posted drone content, I think the same thing happened with my BBQ lovers. It was time to start new socials for Bama BBQ Reviews.

When it comes to judging pork, we settled on a rating scale of 1-10. There’s no method, only madness. No rubric. I just judge the pork on how I think it tastes, and then give my opinion and reasoning as to why I rated it that way. It’s one man’s opinion. I was originally concerned that if I gained enough followers, I might actually hurt someone’s business. That’s the last thing I would want to do. At some point, I started saying in my videos that I’m just a fat boy from Pineywoods who likes pork, you should go try them all for yourself. I really do believe that. 

Great BBQ is an art and art is always subjective. I’m thankful for each and every person who watches my videos, and I truly want to make them more professional looking and more insightful every time. My biggest hope is to help you find a new BBQ joint to go try. At the time of this writing, I’m about 30 videos in, and I hope we’re just getting started!

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