The Fog of War (aka Eating BK BBQ)

Burger King '13 (2)Sometimes the BBQ Jew lifestyle, such as it is, involves supreme sacrifice in the name of research. Recently I stumbled into just such a situation.

I was returning home from a long day–and part of the night–at the office and was in desperate need of nourishment. Almost without thinking, and with utter disregard for my need for nourishment, I steered into a Burger King looking for a quick burger.

The poster outside advertised the new BBQ Rib Sandwich, and for only a dollar. Despite my best intentions to play to BK’s strengths and order a Whopper, I had no real choice.  It was BBQ Rib Sandwich time–I had to try it and report back to the huddled barbecue masses (you).

Although the BBQ Rib Sandwich didn’t contain anything I would describe as inclusive of barbecue or rib, it was indeed a sandwich.  And not a bad sandwich at that.  The BBQ Rib Sandwich is basically a pork burger, with ground pork shaped into a patty, and a reasonably tasty one at that.  I could have done without the sweet barbecue sauce, but my low expectations were exceeded.

The BBQ Rib Sandwich is a different animal (maybe literally?) than the McRib, and for that I was thankful.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans to ever eat a BBQ Rib Sandwich again but then again I never planned to in the first place.

Burger King '13

 

Porky’s Pulpit: Roasting Raleigh

Every once in a while your’s truly, the Honorable Porky LeSwine, receives an email that restores his faith in ‘cue-manity.  A few days ago I read just such an email.

The message had the subject line, “Raleigh BBQ Scene,” and with a title like that I figured it would be nonsense–Raleigh has no real BBQ to speak of, and what’s a barbecue scene anyway?!   Raleigh is a barbecue desert (one “s”, not to be confused with banana pudding) and I think it’s an embarrassment to have a dearth of BBQ in our state capital.  Well, as it turns out the email’s author agrees with me:

I am a native North Carolinian (a Raleighite) who has been out west for 20+ years and I am here in Raleigh trying to figure out how to move back here to God’s country. I learned to make my own BBQ many years ago because I couldn’t get it any other way. 

Question: Where can I go in Raleigh to get a good plate of authentic (wood smoked, not oven roasted) pork barbecue? Coopers – nope. Carolina BBQ – nope. How many others are using gas or electric ovens and no wood? The Pit cooks with wood, but I just don’t go along with having to make a reservation for a table to get a good plate of true North Carolina barbecue in North Carolina’s capital city. Its just not right. [Editor's note: reservations or not, I've been underwhelmed by The Pit's barbecue but kudos to them for cooking it over wood and it's hard to argue with their success as a business.]

Sorry for my ranting. I just can’t believe the BBQ heresy that is going on here. God bless Coopers for being around for 75 years, but they don’t sell BBQ. They sell roasted pork. Are there others that feel like I do?

Heck yeah, there are others that feel like you do.  Not many of us, perhaps, but we exist and we applaud you for speaking truth to propane-power.  Unfortunately, Raleigh is the tip of the iceberg. The lack of real barbecue plagues the state and I can imagine a future that has no true North Carolina barbecue left.

While we wait for the private sector to come to its senses, can’t the state legislators in Raleigh turn their attention to this problem through some sort of hickory smoke stimulus program?  With or without leadership from the legislators wasting space on Jones Street, some of us traditionalists are as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

If you care about traditional barbecue, I encourage you to like the page at www.facebook.com/truecue, where a Campaign for Real Barbecue will soon begin.  Until then, keep your faith in the holy smoke.

BBQ Crime Spree

I’m not sure what the exact definition of a hate crime is, but this sure seems like one.  According to an email from the Durham Police Department, someone has been stealing pig cookers.  C’mon people, have some respect for your fellow citizens!  No word on whether the missing cookers are gassers or use charcoal.  If the former, good riddance. If the latter, shame!

—–Original Message—–
From: Michael, Kammie 
Sent: Friday, July 05, 2013 8:12 PM
Subject: Durham Police Asking for Assistance in Smoker/Pig Cooker Thefts

For Immediate Release: July 5, 2013

Durham Police Asking for Assistance in Smoker/Pig Cooker Thefts

Durham police are asking for assistance in identifying a suspect in the theft of a large $4,000 pig cooker that was stolen on May 23 from the driveway of a home off Mineral Springs Road. 

The suspect was described as a black male in his mid-30s, approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall with a medium build and a bald head. He was wearing a green T-shirt and khaki cargo shorts. He was driving what appeared to be a black 1995-2005 Chevrolet Silverado truck.

Police are investigating two other thefts of large pig cookers/smokers. 

Two pig cookers were stolen from the 3900 block of South Alston Avenue in April. The cookers were chained to the back of a building.

Two large smokers on a trailer were stolen from Mount Bethel Presbyterian Church in late April. The trailer was stolen along with the smokers. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator J. Barr at (919) 560-4281, ext. 29119 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

Watch Your Back, McRib!

McDonald’s dreadful McRib sandwich is under attack and so is all of western southern civilization: Burger King has announced its plans to bring, ahem, regionally inspired barbecue to the masses.

If Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is to BBQ what the Olive Garden is to Italian food, than Burger King must be Pizza Hut.  The end is near my friends.

Don’t take my word for it?  Look at this quote from Alex Macedo, Burger King’s senior vice president: “Barbecues are synonymous with summer; we gather together with family and friends  to eat great food, and now Burger King offers guests a chance to sit back and  let us take over the grilling.”  Grilling, eh?  Yeah, that about sums it up.

 

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Sons Grow Up to Be… This Guy

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.

Porky’s Pulpit: Barbecued Newt

Newt Gingrich has about as much chance of winning the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination as I have of being named spokesperson for the Kosher Cheese of the Month Club.  Nevertheless, America’s Most Self-Aggrandizing Amphibian is headed to North Carolina to campaign.  Hide your barbecue plates, Tar Heels, unless you want to wash your pork down with a tall glass of unsweetened Newt.

In a wide-ranging interview with WRAL news, Newt proclaimed: “I like barbeque well enough I’m prepared to eat the right barbeque in the east and the right barbeque in the Piedmont. As a Georgian, I think I can lay some claim to barbeque, and so I’m happy to come and eat both kinds.”  A solid answer from the Newtser, assuming the ‘q’ spelling of barbecue is WRAL’s doing and not his.  However, Newt missed an opportunity to push for the environmental benefits of wood-cooked pit barbecue: a step toward homegrown energy independence and less controversial than natural gas given the fracking issue. (It occurs to me that “frack-free” barbecue might be the South’s answer to gluten-free cornbread.)

Certainly Newt’s BBQ credentials are better than his yankee-competitors, Rick “No Google Stock in My Portfolio” Santorum and Mitt “Don’t Call Me Mittens” Romney.  If Newt can avoid a Rick Perry-sized barbecue gaffe, he has a good chance to dominate the Republican primary’s barbecue voting bloc.

Dickey’s Plague Spreading in Raleigh?

According to a clumsily written Valentine’s Day press release, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is “coming soon to Raleigh.”  Of course, Dickey’s has had a downtown Raleigh location for some time now, so it’s unclear what this means.  The news release contains amazingly little information so it’s not at all clear if and where a new franchise is opening, but I am assuming Dickey’s will soon open in North Raleigh or lord knows where else.  Stay tuned… and brace yourself.

KC Masterpiece Ain’t Kosher

Yet another reason to avoid KC Masterpiece and other store-bought mega brands: a kashrut alert from the Orthodox Union.

KASHRUTH ALERT

August 5, 2011 KC Masterpiece – Buffalo Marinade
Brand: KC Masterpiece
Product: Buffalo Marinade
Company: HV Food Products – Oakland, CA
Issue: Not certified
This product bears an unauthorized OU symbol.  It is not certified by the Orthodox Union and contains dairy.  Corrective measures are being implemented.

I am intrigued by the “corrective measures… being implemented.” I am picturing Orthodox ninjas crashing through the ceiling at KC Masterpiece’s headquarters in Kansas City… er… Oakland, California… to put a bloody end to the tainted marinade.  Whatever the punishment, it is yet another reason to avoid products made in California that have Kansas City in the name.  So, BBQ Jews, keep your sauce local and you can be assured your pork will be kosher and your conscience clear.

Porky’s Pulpit: Dickey’s to the Rescue? No thanks.

As loyal readers may have noticed, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, though I am a member of The Yellow Cup Club for research purposes.  So when I saw this press release from the Media Machine that is Dickey’s, I threw up a little bit in my mouth (ironically, it tasted a bit like Dickey’s pulled pork… I jest).  According to the release, “In the past 8 months, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit launched 34 new stores in cities across the country, fueling employment growth in each community… bring[ing] employment opportunities to struggling communities. With each new franchise that opens we bring dozens of jobs and, while unemployment numbers remain at historic levels, we are looking to expand these efforts.  As our franchise expands from coast to coast, we are constantly looking to employ people locally,’ President of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Roland Dickey, Jr. said.”

I am pleased that Dickey’s is “constantly looking to employ people locally,” since it would be a poor business model to open a restaurant that employs people who don’t work there.   Still, I can’t help but feel like rooting for Dickey’s to grow is like rooting for Wal-Mart, Starbucks or any other number of mega-chains that have taken over for the mom and pop five-and-dimes and the local coffee shops of the country. Worse yet, whereas even the old time five-and-dimes sell the same crap made in China, and coffee is a fairly universal language, barbecue is/should be hyper local.  Part of what makes barbecue so appealing to me is its particular heritage, its local flavor (figuratively and literally), and the multi-generational pride in regional, and even town to town, differences between meats, sauces, rubs, and the like.

In short, a barbecue chain is antithetical to everything barbecue is about.  Chain barbecue, whether “good” or “bad” in taste, is by definition universal and designed for mass appeal, meaning it is anti-local.  That may work for hamburgers, or coffee, or cheap t-shirts, but not for barbecue.  I don’t want to be able to eat the same brisket in Cheyenne, Wyoming as I eat in Lockhart, Texas. If I did, I’d eat every meal at Applebees (baby back ribs, anyone?!).

Aside from my philosophical objections to franchising barbecue, I have serious reservations about Dickey’s overall impact on employment.  Does each new Dickey’s franchise simply add local jobs, or is the truth a little more complicated?  Are there one-of-a-kind local restaurants, whether serving barbecue or otherwise, that lose customers to Dickey’s?  Will your favorite local BBQ joint survive Dickey’s aggressive expansion plans?  Will the pitmaster who spent his adult life tending the coals at your favorite joint be eager to reheat meat in Dickey’s kitchen?

I know, I know, this is life in a capitalist economy and one can make a similar argument about virtually any chain.  And life without chains would have drawbacks too (I own some of those cheap t-shirts and have a Big Mac from time to time).  I don’t begrudge Dickey’s for doing what they do well, but I sure hope I’m not the only one who steers clear of The Big Yellow Cup That Could in favor of local joints that show pride in their uniqueness.  The barbecue served by chains is something less than, while the barbecue served at your local joint is, well, barbecue.

Only in New York: Kosher Pork

A tip of the snout to alert reader and longtime BBQ buddy Ike Walker*, who alerted me to a story in the New Yorker about pork that was mistakenly labeled Kosher in a Queens supermarket. Although pork is by definition not Kosher (or treyf, if you want to show off), few things could be more Kosher than reading an article in the New Yorker about pork.  And it’s a pretty interesting story too.

Among several gems in the story: “In this era of budget cuts, [New York] state has laid off all eight of its  Kosher-enforcement inspectors, leaving Rabbi Weiss as a one-man department… .” State-funded Kosher inspectors?  Really? Better yet, I am pleased by the discovery of the Orthodox Union, which according to the article, has a “voice-mail recording [that] describes it as “the global leader in Kosher supervision and the world’s largest Jewish resource.”  The Orthodox Union, among many other things, certifies products as Kosher and offers a “Kosher Alerts” RSS feed.  A recent alert:

“Brands: West Coast Select
Products: Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye
Company: Sundance Seafood LTD., Surrey British Columbia
Issue: Unauthorized OU
West Coast Select Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye bear an unauthorized OU symbol.  This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union, and it is being withdrawn from the marketplace. “

I am thinking about trying to get OU certification for my favorite local BBQ joint, Allen & Son’s, so I can dine completely guilt-free.  Until then, the BBQ Jew certifies all pork as Kosher.  Keep on swinin’ and dinin’.

*Notably, Mr. Walker is also the man whose family introduced me to pig pickin’s way back when.

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