BBQ & A: John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed

[Note: Follow this link–Reeds BBQ&A–for an easier to read .pdf version of the interview.]

Husband and wife writing team John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed have penned the instant classic on NC Barbecue–Holy Smoke. And considering they have a Jewish son-in-law and lived in Israel, we welcome them into the fold as honorary BBQ Jews (We’re an inclusive people).

The ‘cue-loving couple were kind enough to share some swine with us a few weeks ago and to put up with our questions. And so, without further ado…our first BBQ & A:

BBQ Jew: How many plates of barbecue would you estimate you have you eaten?

Dale: We’ve each probably eaten something between 500 and a thousand plates, starting at Turnage’s in Durham in 1961 or so. That works out to – what? – only two or three hundred pounds.

The Reeds

The Reeds (photo by Paul Dagy)

John: Not all that much, compared to some folks we know.

BBQ Jew: John, when you taught at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, did you find any good barbecue in the Promised Land (perhaps basted with milk and honey)?

John: No barbecue, although we occasionally bought pork chops from a Christian Arab butcher who mostly sold to the embassies.

Dale: Very occasionally, because they were very expensive.

BBQ Jew: What brought you to write Holy Smoke?

John: We were eating barbecue one evening with David Perry, the editor-in-chief at UNC Press, and we discovered that he and I both cooked out of a book called Legends of Texas Barbecue, by a friend of ours named Robb Walsh. Somebody – we really don’t remember who – said, “You know, somebody ought to do something like this for North Carolina.”

Dale: John and I sort of looked at each other and said, “We will!”
Continue reading

Porky’s Pulpit: Name Hall of Fame

There are many great, colorful names among the hundreds of barbecue joints across North Carolina. Below are my inaugural class of Name Hall of Fame inductees, along with my reasons for inducting them.  Who else deserves to be added to the Hall?

B’s – One letter says it all.  B's

Blue Mist – Barbecue poetry, the name alone makes me hungry.

Bum’s Restaurant – Something about the pairing of the word “bum” next to the classy-for-‘cue word “restaurant.”

Flip’s – Just sounds right.

Fuzzy’s – Easy to love, hard to forget.

Hog Heaven – Sure, it’s cutesy but someone had to take advantage of this great phrase.

Lexington #1 – Brilliant in its simplicity. Better yet, it’s nickname is “the Honeymonk” after owner Wayne Monk .

Pink Supper House – Elegant and a little bizarre, I like it.

Prissy Polly’s – Named after the founder’s mom. Cutesy but catchy.

Short Sugar’s – Unforgettable.

Snook’s Old Fashion – Sounds like just the type of place I want catering my funeral. Then again, it is hard to beat Lexington, NC for funeral homes that respect barbecue.

The Barbecue Center – Indeed it is. A great name for a vintage joint on Lexington’s main drag.

Finally, it is worth noting that I have banned the over-the-top name Butts on the Creek in Maggie Valley from this list for trying too hard.  This type of name may be what it takes to survive in the tourist town of Maggie Valley but the Name Hall of Fame must maintain some ethical standards. 

Whatchamacallit?

In addition to invoking an underrated Hershey’s candy bar, the title of this post refers to the numerous names for the divine swine: Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-B-que, BBQ and so on.

As you no doubt have experienced, there’s a bit of a spelling free-for-all in hog heaven. The nomenclature can be puzzling. Heck, even we BBQ Jews are confused. As you can see, we roll with ‘barbecue’ in our posts, but ‘BBQ’ in our URL. What gives?

photo by Tadson via Creative Commons

photo by Tadson via Creative Commons

We chose ‘BBQ’ for our Web address mostly because we thought it looked cool. And it’s easier to type into a browser, which we’re sure our legions of fans will be doing quite frequently. So, yeah, you’re welcome.

We like to say that Barbecue puts the ‘Bar’ in Bar Mitzvah. On those grounds, we eliminated ‘BBQ’ as our primary spelling. And while Bar-B-Q and ‘Bar B-Q‘ were tempting, we deemed it too unorthodox (i.e. reform).

What about ‘Bar-B-Que,’ then? On the plus side, it’s even closer to Bar Mitzvah than ‘barbecue.’ But all those hyphens? Way too annoying to type. Plus, it makes me think of Barbie. And do you capitalize the second and third syllables? Bar-b-que? bar-b-que? Too many questions, let’s move along.

We use the ‘c’ instead of the ‘q’ because ‘barbeque‘ looks a little off. Plus, those French orthological roots pull pork in a different direction than we’d prefer. Sure, ‘que is fun to say and write. But so is ‘cue, and it doesn’t bring any English/Spanish confusions (¡Que delicioso ‘que, amigo!).

This discussion makes BBQ Jew think of the whole Hanukah vs. Chanukah vs. Hannukah vs. Hanu-Q-A thing. Only, that spelling debacle makes sense because the word is a Hebrew transliteration. What’s our excuse?

We’re curious: which spelling do you prefer and why?

Be honest, you won’t hurt our feelings.

BBQ Jew’s View: White Swan Bar-B-Q & Fried Chicken

Multiple Locations around Johnston County, NC
Multiple Phone Numbers
One Website 
(with multiple menus, multiple photos, & more)
BBQ Jew’s Grade: B (about the highest we’ll go on gas/electric-cooked)
Porky Says: “Gas-cooked pig at a gas station, but it’s good.” 

Running on Empty
“What kind of idiot stops for barbecue at a gas station?,” I asked myself. And then I answered my own question.

Logo from H. Kent Craig's NC-Style BBQ Site

Logo from H. Kent Craig's NC-Style BBQ Site

I had driven past the two gas station-embedded White Swans alongside Highway 70 between Raleigh and Goldsboro several times before this particular day. I had never before had a good meal at a gas station, and I didn’t see any particular reason to try and change that history. Furthermore, I am skeptical of chain restaurants in general and barbecue chains in particular, and White Swan has six locations (six is a heck of a lot by BBQ standards and is five more than most good joints). Plus, there really is nothing about the White Swans on Highway 70 that stands out. Perhaps if the gas stations that house the White Swans were rustic old service stations with overall-clad mechanics pumping gas from a one handled pump I’d have been more intrigued. But these are just dull, modern, no-service stations. Still, today was different: it was dinner time and my gas tank was desperately low. I decided to order a plate of good old fashioned pork grease biofuel along with my tank of 87 Regular. Continue reading

Rabbi’s Rave: Pig Ear Dog Treat

Sign found in Raleighs Clyde Coopers Barbeque

Sign found in Raleigh's Clyde Cooper's Barbeque

I love this photo for the following reasons:

1. Mike Tyson ear biting jokes are always appreciated, mostly because it’s the strangest event I’ve ever watched live on TV (although the O.J. Bronco chase is a close second).

2. I didn’t know pig ears were such a source of pride, but knowing that they are makes me “Proud to be an American.”

3. Hmm…I think my dog would find a pig’s ear to be a treat. Unfortunately, she keeps kosher.

4. Glad to see that nothing goes to waste in BBQ Land. Plus, $1 ain’t much gelt these days.

5. This makes me more confident that the chopped barbecue I usually eat doesn’t contain pig ears.

6. Pig Ear Dog Treat = Dog Ear Pig Treat???