Bacon Over BBQ? Insanity

Surely any judge worth his or her robe would agree that this defendant is unfit for trial and should plead insanity:  A Salisbury man broke into a barbecue restaurant and stole… bacon?!  Read the unsavory details at http://www.salisburypost.com/article/20140203/SP01/140209908/1016

The BBQ State

There is a nicely written, fairly comprehensive article on North Carolina barbecue in Elon University’s The Pendulum. An excerpt: “it’s as important to Carolina culture as the Wright brothers.”  I’d say that is a gross understatement, and perhaps we need to replace the junky little Ohioan-engineered plane that appears on our license plates with a whole hog. Now that’s a thought.  Anyway, read the article in full at http://www.elonpendulum.com/2013/11/the-bbq-state-unique-origins-of-barbecue-define-north-carolina-history-culture/

Another Reason to Ignore Fox News

Fox News has done it again.

I’ve never put much stock into what Fox News says about anything, and regardless of your political stripes I think you’ll agree with me that their “Top 10 Barbecue Restaurants in the US” list is downright laughable: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/09/12/top-10-barbecue-restaurants-in-us/

Oh, and did anyone else notice that their lead photo for the story is of a hamburger?  Perhaps Sarah Palin wrote this article?!

Mu Shu Pork BBQ?

Big news in the pork industry today according to the porkNetwork website, which I visit religiously… and by “religiously” I mean that I visit a few times a year on high holidays!  A company from China called the Shuanghui Group plans to acquire Virginia’s Smithfield Foods for roughly $5 billion cash (in a very large briefcase full of unmarked $50 bills, I assume).

Will there be any pork left for us barbecue loving Americans after the Chinese are done meeting their import appetite?  If I were you, I’d start stocking my pantry with as many barbecue sandwiches as will fit… this could be Y2K all over again, but this time the stakes are high.

A Detour to Texas

Although this blog focuses on North Carolina barbecue, I do concede that barbecue (if you want to call it that) exists elsewhere, even in parts of Texas.  Having recently traveled to Texas to indulge in some of that state’s good eats, I feel obliged to pass along news of the recently published Texas Monthly Top 50 List.  Read the news here or see the full list here by 5/22.  Austin’s much-hyped, and much respected, Franklin Barbecue takes the top spot in the rankings, a surprise to nobody, least of all the people who spend hours in line to sample the food.  (Franklin is one spot I decided not to visit on my recent trip, as my barbecue itinerary was too crowded and my hipster immune system too low to manage the wait in line.)

I always have mixed feelings about Top X lists of any sort, whether music, movies, nose hair trimmers or, yes, barbecue.  I prefer the concept of the NC Barbecue Society’s Barbecue Trail, in which all traditional joints that are included (more should be but that’s another post) are given equal billing.  However, the Top 50 list certainly does generate a lot of publicity and excitement, and perhaps it keeps joints from complacency, as the list is updated every several years.

Sadly, I don’t think there are I am certain there are not 50 barbecue joints in North Carolina that are worthy of inclusion on a Top 50  list, whereas Texas has plenty of well qualified places to choose from.  But I digress…

A Greek Comedy (or Tragedy?)

Perhaps comedy is the true third rail of American politics, at least when it comes to barbecue.

colbertbbqSouth Carolina’s favorite successful son, Stephen Colbert, recently mocked North Carolina BBQ on his satirical news show, The Colbert Report.  Colbert’s sister had just lost a (sadly, not all that close) congressional election to morally-corrupt-yet-steadily-bible-thumping disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford.  Colbert expressed thinly veiled disdain for North Carolina barbecue in a bit where he pretended to stray from his South Carolina roots in protest of the election results.  He compared the “sauceless, vinegar-based meat product that they call barbecue” in North Carolina to South Carolina’s ‘cue, gagging as he tried to choke some NC BBQ down.  Touché, Mr. Colbert, touché.

In truth, there are significant portions of South Carolina that serve barbecue that is nearly indistinguishable from that of its better looking neighbor to the north.  (Those are the parts of the state that are closest to North Carolina, and also the parts of the state that serve good barbecue!)   Colbert may well know this to be true unless he’s lived in New Jersey for so long that he’s forgotten then difference between barbecue hash and bagels with lox.   Regardless, I am willing to forgive and forget, and will readily claim Stephen Colbert as a Tar Heel anytime he wishes.

Don’t Mess with Texxas [sic]

In case you haven’t heard, Texas Monthly magazine has hired its first barbecue editor, the only such position in the nation, or so they say.  Media from far and wide have covered the news, with the coverage perhaps highlighted by a reverent piece in Texans’ favorite local rag, the New York Times.

With Texas Monthly’s decision, Daniel Vaughn–aka @BBQSnob of the Full Custom Gospel Barbecue blog–instantly became the envy of millions of red-blooded, meat-eating Americans (and probably more than a handful of New Yorkers too).  How does the barbecue editor job compare with other enviable positions?  Working at an architecture firm? Cool, but Vaughn left that gig for Texas Monthly.  Founding your own start-up, Facebook?  Lots of press but a money loser in the long run (wait for it, you’ll see).  POTUS?  Too much stress and too little time eating.  You get the picture: this is a pretty good gig and if the job doesn’t cause Vaughn a coronary then he may well be the luckiest man on the face of this earth since Lou Gehrig himself.

The NYT article notes that Vaughn will be, “the only full-time barbecue critic on the staff of a major newspaper or magazine” in the country.  Surely true, but redolent of Texan braggadocio.  If Texas Monthly elevated BBQ writing to celebrity status, then North Carolina certainly deserves credit for starting the world down this path.  See the well-articulated details on the North Carolina Miscellany blog.  Among the blog post’s best points: “Not to pick on our friends in Texas, but the barbecue editor position at Texas Monthly, at least as described by the Times, sounds more like a barbecue critic, charged with seeking out and reviewing restaurants around the state. In other words, the same thing that Bob Garner has been doing for WUNC-TV and in print for nearly twenty years.”  And thus, as with the origin of barbecue itself, North Carolina led the way.

Smiley’s Owner Honored

According to an article in Lexington’s Dispatch newspaper, hometown here Steve Yountz of Smiley’s Lexington BBQ has been added to the NC Barbecue Society’s Wall of Fame.  Yountz was among four inducted this year, along with these others.  See all of the Wall of Fame members here.

The POTUS’ Sticky Fingers

President Obama clearly enjoys North Carolina (well, at least Asheville) and barbecue.  Whether he enjoys North Carolina barbecue remains an open question.

According to an AP article run in the News & Observer–a story that fits squarely within the Observer part of the paper–Obama’s people placed a large takeout order at 12 Bones when the POTUS visited town earlier this week.  Barry “Bones” Obama has eaten the restaurant’s food at least 3 times (and with all the drones flying around the world, maybe he’s snuck some more without us realizing.)

No word yet on whether The Prez will be the grand marshall of the annual Barbecue Festival in Lexington this October–an act that would help answer the question of whether he actually likes NC barbecue or has a love for 12 Bones due to its broad, non-regionally appropriate selection of barbecue (brisket, ribs, chicken, et al.).

General Betray-us and the BBQ Mistress

Finally, an angle to the David Petraeus affair story that has caught my interest: North Carolina barbecue.  See the vinegary details here.  As the old Tar Heel State saying goes, “When Jon Stewart sweats through his t-shirt, it’s hard for a four-star general to resist an attractive woman who eats barbecue.”  Once true, always true.

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