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Nat the Cat Rubs

Nat the Cat and his Smoker in Belle Glade, Florida.
Nat the Cat's smoker 10 years later.

My line of Nat the Cat Rubs has quite a bit of rich history, not known to the public.

I was working for the Toledo Blade, and we did a story on the city with the worst poverty in the United States at the time. It was Belle Glade, Florida we published the photos and story on a trip through Florida. About 10 years later I decided to stop back in and see if there were any improvements in the city or living conditions.

I stumbled upon a small, elderly black man with a large homemade smoker. He was on the corner of an intersection near the downtown of Belle Glade. After parking my truck, I jumped out and found I was the only white guy for miles. I started a conversation about BBQ, and the man said his name was Nat the Cat. He had been doing BBQ for more than 60 years, putting his age somewhere around 85 at the time. We chatted for several hours like best friends, and I explained I was in the middle of shooting a book called BBQ Culture in America.

I shot some photos of him and the smoker. That photo would become the cover of the book. As I was leaving, he called me back and quietly whispered his rub recipe of 60 years to me, saying I was the only person to have the recipe besides him. We shook hands and said goodbye. This was the last time I would see or hear from Nat the Cat.

When my book went into publication, I made some calls to check on some of the elderly Pitmasters who were featured. That’s when I found out that Nat had passed away a few years before, at the age of 92.

Now I am the only person to have Nat’s Original rub recipe, and I have used it for 10 years exclusively. To honor Nat’s memory, I sell his original rub to the public. I’ve also made some variations of his original recipe.

When my wife, Mary, and I went to Florida last February, we went to Belle Glade to look for Nat’s corner. We found the smoker was still there, tires rotted away. A lone stool sat by the smoker, as if waiting for Nat to come back and light a load of wood in the firebox and start smoking a load of ribs, like a day had not gone by. – Allan Detrich

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