Memphis in August

What’s better than Memphis in May? Not much. Certainly not Memphis in August, when the World Kosher Barbecue Contest hits town, minus the pork.

But if your May calendar is booked up and you don’t mind beef ribs, brisket and a kosher pickle eating contest, book your tickets for next year’s festivities. Actually, that sounds pretty cool. Even cooler is the event’s genesis:

The beef fest got started in 1989, when a group of Jewish men asked the very established “Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest” to do something a little radical: offer a non-pork category. When organizers said no, Ira Weinstein and Larry Brown of the ASBEE congregation decided to start their own competition.

Another plus is the level playing field dictated by the strict kosher rules. All competitors must use on the same Weber-like grills distributed by the host synagogue to ensure a kosher cooker. That ups the degree of difficulty to smoke, not grill, the meat. Plus, that apparatus requires much more work than the all-too-common gas contraptions found at most competitions.

Best of all–in keeping with barbecue festival tradition–beer is anything but forbidden at the “Granddaddy” of all Kosher barbecue festivals. And this year’s rib category winner, The Barfield Basters, made good use of Pabst to bring home the blue ribbon by steaming and braising with the lager.

While we here at BBQ Jew can get behind brisket and beef ribs, we’re trying hard not to be a bit offended by all the anti-pork propaganda. Teams competing included BP: Beyond Pork and All Pigs Left Behind. And then there was this chef hat, which clearly went too far. To equate pigs with ghosts…now that’s not kosher.

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