Rogelio V. Solis, File, Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. — Geno Lee has dedicated his life to carrying on his great-grandfather's tradition of serving Mississippi-style tamales and pig ear sandwiches.
But it wasn't until the Southern Foodways Alliance contacted him to make a documentary short about his restaurant that Lee fully realized the Big Apple Inn's place in the history of Southern cuisine.
"I'm keeping the legacy of those generations alive," Lee said.
"Smoke & Ears," a documentary about the Big Apple Inn by filmmaker Joe York, is one of the alliance's many oral history projects. The Oxford, Miss., nonprofit is part of the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
In the 1920's, Lee's great-grandfather, Juan Mora, came to the United States from Mexico. During the 1930's he started selling tamales from a tin drum over an open fire in the Farish Street area, then the center of segregated Jackson.
Mora soon opened the Big Apple Inn, named after a popular dance, and expanded the menu.
Today, the working-class restaurant serves Mississippi-style tamales — made with ground beef or turkey instead of shredded pork or beans — smoked sausage sandwiches with coleslaw and hot sauce, pig ear sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and bologna sandwiches.
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