(Don’t) Pass Over That Pork

Happy Passover, y’all. 

Because I follow the dietary rules of Passover, every year I struggle to answer the ‘what’s for dinner?’question. It recently dawned on me that a barbecue plate is the near perfect answer. 

I say ‘near’ for two reasons. First, the hush puppies are problematic. But these can usually be swapped for something else–perhaps collards, to serve as the greens to symbolize the coming spring (yes, the karpas!). It’s important that the hush puppies not end up on your plate, as studies have found that it humanly impossible to resist their siren song.* 

Might the symbolic shank bone come from a pig?


Second, pork isn’t exactly kosher. 

Of course, I am writing this on a site called BBQ Jew. And it would be logical to deduce that I don’t keep kosher. In that light, why not contemplate a plate of barbecue as the ideal Passover meal? 

If you’re not kosher are you supposed to pretend you are for the 8 days of Passover? Is a Passover barbecue plate just not cool?  

Please do tell us your thoughts on the topic. I reckon we won’t find any rabbinical ruminations on the subject, so we need all the lay musings we can get.  

While I’ll avoid bread and most wheat-based products (I have made a deal with the devil on Grape Nuts), I know I’ll eat pork a few times during the week. It’s just a question of how guilty I should feel.

Finally, for you gentiles out there–be sure you really savor that next barbecue sandwich. I’ll be right there with you next week.

— 

*This is blatantly made up. But it’s probably pretty close to being true!

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The Texans Are Coming, The Texans Are Coming!

Alarming news out of Chapel Hill, where a recent press release notes that a local franchisee has entered into a statewide agreement with Dallas, Texas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  GMW Carolina, Inc. already runs two Dickey’s locations in the Triangle area and plans to open a third soon.  The statewide agreement gives GMW the right to expand into markets across North Carolina, although details have not been released as to where the next locations will be.  Presumably major population centers like Charlotte and the Triad area will be in the mix, as well as additional Triangle storefronts.

What, if any, threat does this pose to North Carolina’s homegrown barbecue culture?  A significant one, I’d speculate.  Sure, Dickey’s serves a different product than authentic NC barbecue joints.  And certainly there are plenty of relocated Texans and others who will enjoy having another options for ribs, brisket and the like.  Heck, I like Texas barbecue too.  But one has to assume that there are some limits to the amount of barbecue North Carolinians will eat (despite our collectively growing waistline).  Thus, for every plate of Dickey’s barbecue sold there will probably be somewhat less NC barbecue sold by a homegrown joint.  I highly doubt Dickey’s will be the knockout blow to mom and pop barbecue joints that Wal-Mart was for many smaller retailers, but its expansion does pose a real threat. 

What should a proud North Carolinian do?  My advice: skip the corporate brisket from Texas and visit your local BBQ joint.  If you insist on adding some Texas flavor, just bring a bottle of Kraft sauce along and dump it over your chopped pork.

The Onion on Pulled Pork

“Shaq Misses Entire Second Half with Pulled Pork Sandwich”

That’s the headline from a recent article in the satirical newspaper The Onion.  See the hilarious accompanying photo and full article here.

Porky’s Pulpit: An Essay on the Origins of My Addiction

My name is Porky LeSwine and I am a barbeholic.

The barbecue version of the food pyramid.

Early Symptoms
Like most addictions, it all started out innocently enough. I grew up in Orange County not far up the road from Allen & Son. My folks took me there from time to time. Back then it was just a couple of times a year habit. I liked barbecue from the start but didn’t think much about it in between those occasional meals. It’s a couple decades later and I’ve now eaten enough barbecue that my cholesterol level can be measured from 100 yards away. How did I, an innocent kid who grew up eating just the occasional BBQ plate, turn into a bona fide barbecue junkie?

After continuing my occasional BBQ routine through high school I soon left North Carolina to attend college in Missouri. There are good ribs in St. Louis but nothing quite like NC barbecue, so I found myself fitting in a visit or two to Allen’s every time I returned home. Soon I was stopping at Allen’s on the way home before even arriving at my parents’ house. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Still, I remained just an occasional visitor to the Temple of Divine Swine, not a member of the congregation. 

Diagnosis
After college I worked a job that sent me on several day trips to Lexington, where I interviewed people about their experiences with… well, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I started my interviews by asking people where I should go for lunch. I was amazed at how varied and passionate their responses were. It seemed like everyone had an opinion and they took pride in sending me off the beaten path to the “little place down the road a bit.”

I knew Lexington was barbecue Mecca (or maybe Medina for those of you partial to the ‘cue served in the Eastern part of the state ), but I was shocked to discover that Lexington had over 20 barbecue joints for 20,000 people. At one joint for every 1,000 people, there may be more barbecue options per person in Lexington than there are physicians or churches. But who needs a physician when a chopped tray a day keeps the doctor away? And who needs church Continue reading

VP “Biden” His Time at Bullock’s

What do Irish rock stars and the Vice President of the United States have in common?  Both eat mediocre barbecue when visiting North Carolina. 

Back in October, we learned that U2 chowed down on Clyde Cooper’s barbecue after a show in Raleigh (they had eaten Bullock’s on a past visit).  And now comes news that Joe Biden dined at Bullock’s on a recent visit to Durham.  Although I am not a huge fan of Bullock’s, I am pleased to see from pictures of the meal that it appears the Veep, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and others ordered “family style.”  If only Democrats and Republicans could sit down and share a family style meal, maybe we’d get some decent legislation passed once in awhile.  Instead, we end up with legislation that is more watered down than bad iced tea.  Speaking of tea, no word on whether Delaware’s favorite son Biden knew to refrain from ordering his unsweetened…

Do Magical Elves Love BBQ?

See below for an unpaid (unfortunately) advertorial, which is excerpted from an email I received earlier this week.  (The content is not directly barbecue-related but I hope it interests some of you.)  Then keep reading for my snide remarks. 

I’m writing from Emmy-nominated production company, Magical Elves (Project Runway and Top Chef).  We are casting a new show for NBC called America’s Next Great Restaurant (wt) – a competition show where the next great restaurant concept could make a big splash.  We are seeking foodies, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, those with a creative business sense but also people with no food biz experience who simply have a great idea.  As someone whose content gets in front of a lot of these types, we are hoping you might find this interesting enough to let your readers know about.  

We will actually be holding an open casting call in Raleigh! So we would love to meet everyone in person and hear their concept first hand. We will be at:

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Monday, March 22
Chipotle
6102 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, North Carolina 27609
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

More information can be found at: www.NBC.com/casting, with a click through to our site with the application on it.

Rest assured that I’ve been working day-and-night to dream up the greatest barbecue-concept restaurant.  Here’s my idea… wait for it… 

My concept is a bit radical, but I’ll share it anyway.  Imagine a quaint, unpretentious restaurant–let’s call it a “joint”!–that cooks whole hogs or pork shoulders slow and low over wood coals. The pork would be served with a deceptively simple vinegar-based sauce that highlights the succulent pork’s smoke-kissed flavor without overwhelming it.  Sides would include dishes like hush puppies, slaw and Brunswick stew.  And the iced tea would be, get this, sweet.  This “barbecue joint” would emphasize quality and would not try to be everything to everybody. Now that’s an idea! 

Sarcasm aside, this honestly sounds like a great opportunity for local restaurant types so spread the word.  Returning to sarcasm, does anyone else find it ironic that the casting call for a show about innovative restaurant concepts is being held at Chipotle?  No disrespect to the chain that offers such culinary innovations as the Burrito Bowl, but really?!

BBQ&A: Lolis Eric Elie, Writer and Filmmaker

America's least successful vegetarian?

[Note: Follow this link–Elie BBQ&A–for an easier to read .pdf version of the interview.] When it comes to barbecue, Lolis Eric Elie has a checkered past.  It’s not that he wrote a three times weekly column for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans from 1995 to 2009.  Or that he is on the staff of the new David Simon series, Treme, which debuts on HBO in April and has nothing to do with ‘cue.  It’s certainly not that he has edited and authored two essential books about barbecue, Corn Bread Nation Vol. 2: The United States of Barbecue and Smokestack Lightning, respectively.  Nor that he has produced two documentary films, including Smokestack Lightning: A Day in the Life of Barbecue.  None of these parts of Elie’s bio concern me.  His checkered past?  He once admitted to going through a vegetarian phase.   

Despite his past vegetable transgressions, Elie’s extensive barbecue background makes him the perfect subject for an interview.  In the spirit of carnivores everywhere, Elie was kind enough to chew the fat with me on a variety of subjects.  In the below interview, we discuss the “disturbing trend” of North Carolina barbecue joints switching to gas/electric cooking, why–ahem–New York barbecue has its advantages, and the newspaper industry’s slow “suicide,” among other topics.  Dig in…  

BBQ Jew: I understand you were raised in Louisiana.  When and how did a po’ boy-, beignet- and gumbo-eating New Orleaner like yourself discover barbecue?  Seriously, Louisiana isn’t widely known for its BBQ, so what was your introduction to barbecue and how did you decide it was worth writing a book about?
Lolis Eric Elie: I was on the road with Frank Stewart, the photographer, and we were working for Wynton Marsalis. Frank grew up in Memphis and Chicago and he came up with the idea of doing a book on barbecue. Growing up in Louisiana, I had some great backyard barbecue. But there were certainly no commercial establishments to rival the best of Memphis or Kansas City.   Our initial book proposal was a pretty light romp through the world of barbecue that would compare and contrasts the various styles. After a week in Memphis, researching the sample chapter, I knew that barbecue could be the focus of a serious book about American culture.    

BBQ Jew: Since Smokestack Lightning was first published in 1996, barbecue has gained far more mainstream attention across the U.S. and beyond.  In fact, it’s probably one of the hottest American food trends, from the lowly McRib on up to fine dining establishments.  How do you feel about barbecue’s newfound status?
LEL: The growth of barbecue is a mixed blessing. If the big money restauranteurs did not find it worth investing in, the art form might all but die. Mom and Pop restaurants are dying in droves for a variety of reasons. But the emergence of barbecue in, say, a media capital like New York helps keep us on the radar of the major media in a way that we couldn’t be if, for example, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, AL was the capital of the barbecue world. 

   
And, I tell you something else. While we might argue about the quality of barbecue in New York (I’ll say it’s good and getting better by leaps and bounds) one thing it has head and shoulders above everywhere else. They actually cook their side dishes and use fresh ingredients while most folks in barbecue country are opening up cans.It’s always been funny to me to hear a guy go on for hours about how he uses only a certain kind of wood and how nobody but his oldest son knows his sauce recipe. What he won’t tell you is that Campbell’s Soup Co. and Sysco have the recipes for everything else he serves. Continue reading