Documuttonary Film School

As you, dear readers, are well aware this website has a narrow-minded myopic laser-like focus on North Carolina’s pork barbecue culture.  Still, we cannot refrain from putting a plug in for a documentary film on another of America’s underappreciated forms of barbecue–Kentucky mutton.  Mutton is one of just a handful of distinct barbecue styles in the U.S., and without a doubt it is the most obscure of the styles.  A new (to us) documentary helps bring mutton the attention it deserves. (Disclaimer: I have not actually eaten mutton, so perhaps the film is bringing mutton attention it does not deserve.) 


Um, no...

According to its websiteMutton: The Movie “takes you on a magical journey to the northwestern corner of Kentucky (Owensboro to be exact) where the descendants of the Welsh who settled the banks of the Ohio River don’t count sheep, they barbecue them.”  Well put.   Mutton is an informative, entertaining documentary and clocks in under 20 minutes long, so you really have no excuse to not watch it.  Of course, we respectfully disagree with Owensboro, Kentucky’s claim to the title of “Bar-B-Q Capital of the World.”  Heck, the people of Owensboro can’t even spell barbecue right!  Still, in the interest of fostering good will among the barbecue-loving people of the world, we present this in-depth analysis of the common ground between mutton and NC pork barbecue:

  • Both mutton and NC barbecue are traditionally cooked over Hickory wood.
  • Both are sources of local pride and the products of hard work, sweat and tears beers.
  • Mutton is often cooked by Catholic churches as a fundraiser, while NC barbecue is a common part of fire department fundraisers.  Catholics and firefighters fear hellfire and fire, respectively, yet have no qualms aboutcooking meat slow and low over fiery coals.  Also, both groups are known to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage while cooking. (One of my favorite images in Mutton: The Movie is the scene at the International Barbecue Festival, which features Budweiser sponsorship signs with church names; e.g., a sign that reads “Budweiser: St. Pius X”)
  • Mutton lovers eat Burgoo, which is sort of a Kentucky take on Brunswick stew, a key side dish in Eastern-style NC barbecue.  Also, the thin part-vinegar sauce used to flavor mutton is referred to as “dip,” the name given to the sauce used for Lexington-style NC barbecue.   
  • Mutton and NC barbecue are commonly served sliced or chopped.

What is the moral of this story?  Well, dear readers, if we humble BBQ Jews can find common ground among mutton lovers and pork lovers, what other common ground can we find?  President Obama recently delivered a powerful speech on the need to bridge the gap between the Muslim world (largely pork-avoiding and mutton-appreciating) and largely Judeo-Christian America (land of pork-lovers and mutton-skeptics).  For some reason, the President failed to discuss barbecue in his speech, but surely such a discussion will be a key part of his plans for ongoing dialogue. 

One Response

  1. Joe York, who did this documentary, just finished another one on Ayden’s Skylight Inn. It premiered at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party last Sunday (14 June), and it’s terrific. It looks as if it might be available on-line soon (see, although I can’t make it play yet.

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