Amory (Mississippi) Railroad Festival, April 15th-18th

1. Barbecue sandwich, Working for my Lord Ministries: well-smoked meat pre-mixed with too much store-bought sauce. Not enough slaw.

2. Chicken fillet plate, First United Methodist: Terrible chicken (overcooked, then dried out under a heat lamp), but great fries.

3. Chicken on a Stick (St. Helen’s Catholic) with Abner’s sauce (1st Methodist): Where I come from, CoaS is a skewer of boneless chicken chunks dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried. This was grilled, no seasoning, overcooked, skimpy. Thank God, or at least the Methodists, for buying several gallons of the secret-recipe sauce at Abner’s in Oxford every year and selling it for 20 cents per generous squirt.

4. Barbecue pork plate, Greater Love Outreach Church: The best ‘cue of the festival. Coarsely chopped, plenty of crispy edges included, better than average sauce. Nondescript fries and slaw, but excellent slow-cooked baked beans.

5. Barbecue pork plate, Meadowood Chapel: Decently smoked ‘cue, but very few tasty exterior pieces, and all of it minced far too finely. Very good homemade vinegar-based sauce, a rarity in these parts. Decent slaw, fresh hot fries.

6. Taco Salad, Trace Road Baptist: Good proportions to ingredients, no skimping on the beef, but too salty.

7. Ribeye steak sandwich and onion rings, Meadowood Baptist: absolute crap. Slices of steak almost indetectable in the sandwich; stone cold onion rings.

8. Catfish plate, 1st Methodist: Excellent even by pro standards: hot fresh fish fillets, ditto fries, exceptionally good hushpuppies with plenty of onion.

9. Apple puffs, 1st Methodist: Constructed like apple wontons in puff pastry, deep fried and served with ice cream. Winner.

10. Apple fritters, Bethel Apostolic: Golf-ball-sized frybread with chunks of apple. Rolling them in confectioners sugar straight out of the fryer produces a tasty messy glaze.

11. Catfish sandwich, Bethel Apostolic: Hot fresh fish, well-seasoned cornmeal crust, cooked through but barely. (The tendency toward overcooking was everywhere this year.) Hot flaky catfish contrasting with cool crunchy coleslaw inside the bun ‘ beautiful.

12. Barbecue sandwich, St. Andrews United Methodist: Awful. Dry pork, no smoke flavor, all flavorful exterior bits trimmed away, no slaw, bottled sauce. Prison food.

13. “Funnel Cake,” Nettleton Pentecostal. If you’ve never had one, I can’t explain it. The best use of prepackaged pancake mix ever devised by man. Looks like a fried pastry Celtic knot drawn by a blind drunk with the DTs. But tasty.

Noted but not tested, the best/worst marketing ploy of the festival: Nettleton Pentecostal was selling bags of freshly cooked pork rinds under a sign that said “LOW-CARB MEAT SKINS, $3.00”

Research assistants: Judy Crump, Sarah Crump.