Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue
– Easily the most comprehensive treatment of NC BBQ ever written, this engaging book has a little something for everyone, from a detailed history of barbecue to recipes to interviews with famous pitmasters. Who would have guessed that a couple of scholars (the Reeds) and a recent UNC alum (McKinney), all transplants to NC, could write such a good book about ‘que? They deserve a Cheerwine toast, so raise your bottles!
North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time
– Bob Garner’s seminal work is a mix of history, culture and reviews. Since it is from 1996, the reviews are a bit dated but the rest of the content and Garner’s light-hearted, personal writing style make it a must-read for barbecue devotees.
Bob Garner’s Guide to North Carolina Barbecue
– This book is meant to be a pocket (or at least glove compartment) guide to the best 100 or so barbecue joints in the state. It’s simply indispensable, buy it. Of course, since it was written way back in 2002, you’d be wise to eat at all the places listed just to make sure nothing has changed…
The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, Manteo to Murphy – Jim Early of NC BBQ Society fame reviews even more joints than Garner in this guide, also from 2002. By design it seems Early was a little less selective about which joints to review in his book, so he includes some second-tier joints, but it’s a terrific book for the barbecue road tripper. Just be sure to call ahead, since some of the joints listed in Early’s guide (and Garner’s) have closed or moved.
Barbecue, Lexington Style – A barbecue memoir. Yes, really, it is a barbecue memoir, and what’s wrong with that? Although it sounds interesting, we have not read this one yet, in part because we have no idea how to get ahold of this tome. It’s kind of like the Holy Grail of Lexington barbecue books. Anyone seen it?
– Alas, we have not yet read this book either but, according to Holy Smoke, Peter Batke is Austrian-born and has a PhD in German literature from UNC-Chapel Hill. Naturally, he has published a humorous book about barbecue. Actually, since German settlers were the key to establishing the barbecue scene in Lexington, maybe this is natural. Poor ol’ Peter is currently employed at Princeton University in New Jersey, hundreds of miles from any good barbecue. I’m sure he’d appreciate a pound of fresh ‘que Fed Exed to his campus box.
Smokestack Lightning – Although this book only has one chapter on NC barbecue (and it is a chapter split with–gasp–South Carolina), it is one of the best books on barbecue ever written. Small part barbecue guide book, small part cookbook and large part sociological treatise on American culture, all parts of Smokestack Lighting are well worth reading. The photos throughout the book are spectacular too. Plus, author Lolis Eric Elie writes in the introduction, “This thing started over a plate of barbecue in Wilson, North Carolina.” Note that Elie also produced a film version of Smokestack Lightning, which you can order here.
Barbecue is a Noun – This is one of the better known barbecue films and it is set in the Carolinas and made by a couple of North Carolina filmmakers. Learn more about the movie here, but I am not sure how to find a copy to view. I am trying to catch up with the filmmakers to find out.