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.
File this under “So Sad It’s Funny.” CBS Charlotte reports that Salisbury Police apprehended a man employed by a local barbecue restaurant for peeping on his mother-in-law. What’s funny about that? Well, it was the glorious stench of barbecue that helped police catch the criminal.
According to CBS Charlotte, the victim “told police that she smelled barbecue coming from outside her home. Knowing her son-in-law works at a local barbecue restaurant, she grew suspicious.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the victim would prefer her son-in-law not refer to her as “mom.” Just a hunch.
You can’t make this stuff up, folks. God bless America and its muckraking journalists.
A new barbecue joint in Tulsa, Oklahoma is getting attention for its saucy name: Action Erection Beer & BBQ. According to an article under the clever headline “‘Action Erection’ Restaurant Raising Eyebrows,” the new BBQ place is named after the owner’s like-named construction company. No word yet on whether the barbecue is worth getting excited about.
(To bring this story closer to home for my fellow North Carolinians, note that an interesting but recently retired Durham blog took its inspiration from a double entendre flaunting construction company: Seegar’s Fence Company, whose motto was once “Dependable Erection Since 1949″.)
“In the early twentieth century, millions of Southerners moved from hardluck farms to the big cities of the North and West. As the Great Migration carried Southern barbecue to new locales, it did the same for Southern music.”*
If BBQJew.com had a soundtrack, without a doubt it would be the terrific new barbecue-blues compilation album, “Barbecue Any Old Time.” The collection of vintage, early 20th century blues music about barbecue and other such meats was released in September on North Carolina’s own Old Hat Records. Like the authentic, soulful food paid homage to throughout the album, it’s hard to find music this flavorful in today’s quick-cooked world.
One would expect an album that is a compilation of blues songs about barbecue and other southern meat treats would be a novelty record, and to a certain degree it is. Yet despite the novelty of the concept, the album is worthy of repeated listening. Many of the songs are as well-crafted as any of the era, and the music varies widely from track to track despite the uniformly carnivorous theme. If your musical palate includes a taste for country blues, urban blues, string bands or even vaudeville there is something on Barbecue Any Old Time for you.
Barbecue Any Old Time serves as a terrific crash course on blues music from the 1920s to early 1940s: it is fueled by energy and mischief, prepared with great vocals and musicianship, and basted in numerous double-entendres. Lyrics like “pepper sauce mama, you make my meat red hot” are among the more over the top refrains, but there are plenty of memorable lines to choose from on an album featuring songs like “Meat Cuttin’ Blues,” “Fat Meat is Good Meat,” and “Pig Meat is What I Crave.” In fact, you may find yourself blushing next time you sit down for a meal.
Despite plenty of songs that lean heavily on sexual innuendo, like good barbecue the album is not as simple as it may first seem. Taken as a collection, the songs on Barbecue Any Old Time have a hidden complexity to them that make you want to return again and again. Perhaps that is no surprise given the caliber of musicians featured on the album. The track listing includes blues legends like Memphis Minnie, Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee, as well as far lesser known artists like Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon, Bessie Jackson, and The Two Charlies. The liner notes are top notch, featuring a compelling essay by Tom Hanchett, Staff Historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South, and succinct but fascinating descriptions of each track. Also included are vintage images of barbecue joints, blues musicians, record posters, and even President Andrew Jackson (read the notes and you’ll learn why).
Musical highlights include “Big Boy” Teddy Edwards’ funny but not slight, “Who Did You Give My Barbecue To?”; Frankie Jaxon’s smokey-smooth vocals on “Give Me a Pig’s Foot and a Bottle of Beer”; the rollicking “Pepper Sauce Mama” by Charlie Campbell and His Red Peppers; and Barbecue Bob’s expertly crafted “Barbecue Blues.” Though not every song reaches the pit-cooked perfection of these ones, nearly all are worth tasting more than once. Barbecue Any Old Time indeed. Congratulations to Old Hat Records for tending the fires on this slow-cooked instant classic.
*Quote from a letter by Old Hat Records promoting the album.
Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember fallen military heroes who gave their lives trying to protect the American way of life (and to find great deals on new cars, household goods, and other manifestations of
consumerism runk amok, ahem, the American way of life). Yet despite the heroic efforts of generations of brave men and women, one of America’s proudest institutions is under attack. Indeed, like so many great American traditions before it–sex, drugs and rock & roll, to name only a few–barbecue is continuously affronted by the nattering na(shish-ka)bobs of negativism.
Every week my email inbox is filled with anti-barbecue propaganda, ranging from basically benign barbs to maliciously malignant missives. Among the attacks I’ve seen on the great American institution, in the past week alone, are:
-On the benign side, confidence-suppressing articles about dealing with problems like “improper flaming” and other possible afflictions of the grill. Not since Viagra ads first hit the airwaves have America’s charcoal-wielding men had such cause for performance anxiety.
-Articles about barbecue’s supposed role in the epidemic of obesity plaguing our nation’s collective midsection.
-News reports that imply barbecue may lead to incidents of violent crime and even natural disasters.
-Malignant stories discussing barbecue’s supposed link to, well, cancer; anyone want to learn about “7 Ways to Cancer-Proof Your Barbecue”?
-Common dangers, such as household fires, tenuously linked to barbecuing and played up for maximum dramatic effect on barbecue-friendly occasions like Memorial Day and Independence Day. Even in BBQ strongholds like West Texas, the BBQ-baiting media have tracked down otherwise self-respecting firefighters who “are sending out a warning [that barbecue] might not be worth the risk.” As current West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief, and possible Past-President of the West Texas Brussel Sprouts Defense League, Jimmy Ellis put it in the same article, “One spark and the whole city could go up like a keg of dynamite.” Humph.
-Lest the above dynamite-level dangers not be enough, other alarmists warn of the risk of contracting trichinosis and other food-borne illnesses. Luckily, in a rare act of bravery, the USDA recently released updated guidelines on cooking meat, and finally admitted that cooking pork to 145 degrees is sufficiently safe (as tenderloin lovers have known for decades).
As if the above affronts on America’s barbecue tradition were not enough, the Al Gore set has devoted a disproportionate amount of effort to pin the future collapse of the earth’s ecosystems on barbecue. Indeed, it appears that barbecue is now THE grease-stained culprit of global warming. “Are barbecue grills destroying the planet?,” asks an article in the May 27th issue of The Week, just the most recent in a series of attempts to make backyard pit bosses feel as guilty as possible for their selfless act of smoking meat instead of gassing it or, lord forbid, torturing it in an electric oven.
Finally, the forces of evil have stepped up their efforts to challenge the most fundamental of American barbecue values: the near-biblical truth that barbecue is by definition meat. Indeed, masochistic vegetarians across the country write morally bankrupt drivel like this piece that tries to nudge meat aside and claim a spot on the Weber for veggies (it is consoling that the folks in the picture that runs with the article look famine-stricken and sport forced smiles that quietly scream, “For God’s sake, let me trade this pink polo shirt for a slab of ribs”).
While vegetarians take pains to inflate their bloated self-worth, and to maintain their emaciated figures, by choking down Bulgur Veggie Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise and the like, I’m sticking up for the American way. I’ll be out back on my flammable wood deck cooking up some carbon-heavy, cancer-inducing pork butt to serve with bacon-flavored greens and calorie-full hush puppies. After all, it’s Memorial Day and I think that our fallen heroes would have it no other way.
I received my new, free subsription to Pork Magazine this week. In case you are among the remaining few who don’t subscribe to this trade journal, it proclaims itself, “The Business Magazine for Professional Pork Producers,” and who am I to disagee with such a specific claim? Speaking of pork production, evidently pigs do not reproduce through mitosis. Indeed, here is a photo of the disturbing full page advertisement that graces the inside cover of the May 2011 issue of Pork Magazine:
AMG catheters: “Undisputedly, the world’s finest catheter for frozen semen.” Again, I will not argue with such a specific claim (though I did look up undisputedly online and discovered it is, indisputedly, a real word). Yet all of a sudden my quaint childhood dreams of being a farmer are gone–gone like a
semen snow covered evergreen.
Shocking (if not all that surprising) news from the nation’s largest barbecue festival. “Apparently, you could get a little more than pork shoulder in one tent at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest,” reads the first sentence of a recent article in The Commercial Appeal.
Three members of the Shotwell Smokers cooking team were arrested for having some unsanctioned secret ingredients on hand–“just under 2 ounces of marijuana, about a half-ounce of hash, a fraction of an ounce of cocaine, 37 hydrocodone pills, 57 oxycodone pills, three Xanax pills, two morphine pills and one Darvocet.” Good eats!
Although it’s important to respect that whole innocent till proven guilty thing, I challenge you to take one look at the photos of the three men charged and not conclude they were planning to set up a meth lab too. Ironically, the guiltiest looking one of the bunch is named James Innocenti. Needless to say, the Shotwell Smokers will not be favorites to win next year’s Memphis in May competition but their future cellmates may learn a thing or two about barbecue.