The Secret's Out

Stories about the origins of Secret Spice are as varied as the master Southern cooks who use it religiously. Some say the recipe was brought over by the slaves who used it to enhance the tastes of their meager larders. Others swear it was created more than 100 years ago in Alabama by Big John Daniels, a local legend whose mastery of downhome cooking made many "find religion."

Either way, folks living along the banks of the Tallaposa River in Central Alabama have used Secret Spice for generations. Even today, on any given evening, you can smell the tempting aromas of fresh-fried catfish, homemade chili, vegetable gumbo, or if you're lucky, maybe some barbequed ribs. Families gather around the dinner table just as they have for decades to talk about the day's happenings and to enjoy some of the best cooking on the planet.

Legend has it that folks came from miles around to sample Big John's fried mullet and hush puppies at the soft ball games the men and boys played in the fields on lazy summer weekends. No one cared much about the score, but when they asked Big John about the particulars of how he seasoned his barbeque "just so," Big John would smile and say, "It's my secret."

Big John used his "Secret Spice" in everything he made. He used in the turkey and dressing prepared for the Sunday church dinners, and sprinkled a little in the turnip greens to create his special secret taste. The little church was always packed, not for the sermon, but for the scrumptious Big John feast to follow.

No one's quite sure who created Secret Spice, but one thing's for certain; if you want to capture the unique mouth-watering taste of true Southern cuisine, you've got to know the secret. So - hush! - Now the secret's out, and it's Secret Spice.