Next Time Say Yes

A brief barbecue tale:

Recently, I was at a highbrow, foodie conference in Austin. While killing time in the lobby between sessions, I noticed that the woman next to me had a Kansas City Barbeque Society sticker on her laptop. That got my attention, because the majority of attendees were…well, unlikely to sport KCBS stickers.

I made an innocent comment about it and the woman, in her 50s or so, asked if I was a member. I said no, unfortunately, I’d let my membership lapse.

Her: Oh, that’s too bad.

[Silence]

Me: What’s your affiliation with KCBS?

Her: I’m the executive director.

Allllllllrightyyyyyyy!!!

Shortly thereafter, she got up and left as I consoled myself by (silently) disparaging the sugar-sauced up product those KCers push. In other words, I was lamenting a missed opportunity.

The lesson here–what’s a little membership-related fib between barbecue brethren?

Dillard’s Departs

The news hit hard this week: We’re losing Dillard’s. Sad days for the Durham barbecue community.

The institution of an eatery, in business since 1953, will open its doors today for the last time. Dillard’s may not have cooked the state’s best barbecue (see the propane smoker in the rear), but it oozed community and served some just-like-you-wished-your-grandma-did cooking (see Porky’s past review).

Those who’ve never been can get a sense of Dillard’s through these moving pictures, courtesy of ABC-11. The segment confirms that part of the reason for the restaurant’s closing was that owner Wilma Dillard, daughter of founder Samuel, didn’t want to raise prices on folks in these hard times.

That reminded me of the recent ‘cue community rallying around Bullock’s when it became known that Durham’s oldest (1952) ‘cue shack was teetering on the edge. With Dillard’s, we never got the chance. And while I can’t help but wish Wilma had tried raising prices, I respect the heck out of why she didn’t.

Instead of mourning the restaurant’s closing, today is a day to celebrate Dillard’s fabulous greens, fluffy hushpuppies and solid barbecue. And did we mention the fried chicken? If you do head over to Fayetteville Rd., tip your cap (and leave a healthy retirement bonus) to a family that has fed all comers for decades, sometimes for free.

Here’s one quick story from a posting on the Downtown Durham listserv:

When I came to Durham in 1972, I noticed a large display ad in the Durham Morning Herald. It showed Sam Dillard dressed in a white suit with a gold-headed cane. The caption said, “I may not be a colonel, but I do make good chicken.”

Then a few weeks later there was piece saying that Kentucky Fried had sued him, on the grounds that use of the colonel’s trademark suit might cause confusion. [While] Sam Dillard is large and African American, [and] it wasn’t clear [what] the confusion was, KFC won. Then a few weeks after that came another ad, showing Mr. Dillard dressed in overalls. He was standing next to a fallen tree, and on the log was a neatly folded stack of white clothes with the cane leaning against it. The caption said, “Well, they took my colonel suit away from me, but I still make good chicken.”

The ad in question

Finally, we’ll leave you with the verse from Deuteronomy that Wilma and the crew have long had on their message board:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

United States of Food

What a country! As one can see in this state-by-state map of food specialties, we live in a diverse, delicious, somewhat obese nation.

It’s worth a gander to see what one quirky web site makes of our nation’s food. North Carolina is represented by barbecue dry barbeque. Oh. To this rabbi’s ears, that’s akin to wet water.

Meanwhile, on the wet barbecue front, I’d humbly suggest that the pride of Kansas City should carry Missouri. No disrespect to the noble toasted ravioli, but everyone knows they couldn’t clean K.C. rib fingers with a Handi Wipe (so to speak). And tossing the “wet barbecue” title across the line to Kansas wreaks of a compromise.

I’m sure we everyone would make an amendment or two, but it’s a fun map. As I perused it, I found myself putting together a heckuva plate. It’d be heavy on North Carolina, with sides of Alabama, Oklahoma and Montana a little Kentucky (why not!). Maybe a little Mississippi for dessert.

What’s your All-American meal?

Sign of the Times?

Here’s a sign I spotted while lamenting the dearth of barbecue joints and the abundance of boiled peanuts in Southern Virginia.  I was hoping to find a place that would show me how good Brunswick stew can be. Alas…

At least I now know where the name comes from.

Virginia is for (Stew) Lovers?

School What?

It recently came to the Rib Rabbi’s attention (after reading a blog post) that an entire generation of young Americans are being duped. Their rightful inheritance of the noble tradition of barbecue is being bastardized by school board shortcomings and shenanigans.

A teacher named, coincidentally enough, “Mrs. Q” is eating school lunch along her students at a midwestern school this year (she’s intentionally vague). She blogs about the experience on Fed Up With Lunch, and in a recent post she reported that her cafeteria served something called “Rib-B-Que.”  She’d written about this all-beef patty smothered in cloying barbecue sauce before.

These are not ribs.

Nor is it barbecue.

Shame on you, lunch ladies!

Pity the poor children. For their sake and our nation’s, I think it’s time we right this barbecue wrong. Let’s call a spade a spade a beef patty a beef patty. At least a few of the kids already do, as Mrs. Q reports:

I think somebody is trying to be creative with the “rib-b-que” meat (the illusion of variety), but the kids aren’t fooled. I asked one of my students “What did you have for lunch today?” and he replied, “A hamburger.”

RDU Kidding Me?

RDU, can we talk?

A sign of love in MEM

I recently had the pleasure of flying through Memphis and was struck by the emphasis on swine. In the one terminal I traversed, there were two barbecue shops (quite crowded at 9 AM I might add) and one porcine deity (see pic below). And barbecue isn’t even Memphis’ main thing–a distant third to the music/Beale Street and all things Elvis.

Now. Since you’re located in an area with nary a nationally-renowned ‘thing’ (Pharmaceuticals?), RDU, I’d think you would really embrace barbecue. Give me one good reason why there isn’t a mid-terminal pig pickin’ every day.

OK, at least a pickin’ outside the terminal to welcome visitors. And why aren’t there smokers in every Park & Ride lot for returning Carolinians. Inside, there should be rival Lexington and Eastern-style shops, hopefully set up on opposite sides of the airport’s midway point.

At the very least, RDU, we need one decent swine seller.  Instead, you give us the mediocrity that is Brookwood Farms. Now, the eatery’s output ain’t all bad. But Brookwood has its place in the world–the supermarket meat section.

Where are RDU's hog chefs?? (MEM swine idolatry)

Sure, getting a barbecue joint that cooks over coals may be difficult, but I’d settle for a well-done gas operation. A place that serves a decent barbecue sandwich (and sweet tea).

You can do better, RDU. I know you can. And you have just the opportunity–the entire new half of Terminal 2 will be opening soon. Let’s celebrate that event with a new barbecue restaurant or two and a kick-off pig pickin’.

Barbecue Caught in the Crossfire?

For shame, Big Pig.

The NC Pork Council has gone and done a real no-no–they’ve messed with puppies. More specifically, they’ve used their political might to block a bill that would ban “puppy mills” because they oppose its supporters, the Humane Society of the United States.

My sources inside the Hog Industry say this is the first in a string of hard lines the group is planning to take–the next being against flowers, babies and ice cream.

Chances are, when you’re going against the Humane Society, you’re not on the…how should we say it…humane side of the issue. The swine industry based their objections to the puppy bill on their suspicion that the Humane Society may next try to guarantee livestock such luxuries as being able to stand up in their cage and fully extending their limbs. I mean, what’s next–terrycloth robes?!! With embroidered initials?? (<—sarcasm)

I’ve spoken with old-timers who swear that the swine tastes different these days because the hogs are different. Not being able to stand up will do that. That’s another part of the barbecue heritage we should strive to protect.

In the article’s comments, a few people talked about boycotting pork and one even suggested boycotting barbecue. That’s where this rabbi gets off the train. Don’t punish hard-working restaurateurs for the sins of their suppliers.

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