Ugly and Delicious

I’ve never accused North Carolina barbecue of looking pretty, but it sure is tasty.  Exhibit A is this plate of ‘cue at Wilber’s in Goldsboro:

A hot mess.

Porky’s Pulpit: Now You’re Cooking with Gas

The phrase “now you’re cooking with gas” dates back at least to the 1940s, when advertisements used the tagline to tout the performance of gas stoves, and likely earlier.  By the 1940s, gas ranges had been around for decades and had supplanted wood stoves in urban areas but were being challenged by a new competitor–the electric range.  In North Carolina, of course, “now you’re cooking with gas (or electricity)” is not something to be proud of when your cooking barbecue.  But when the gas with which you’re cooking barbecue comes from North Carolina, it’s newsworthy.

According to a story on WRAL News, Patterson Exploration Services of Sanford operates North Carolina’s only natural gas well in nearby Chatham County.   On Saturday, a group of scientists and others celebrated with a barbecue.  As the WRAL reporter points out, “for the first time in history this is pork cooked with North Carolina gas.”  Personally, I’d rather have been around to enjoy the first time pork was cooked with North Carolina hickory wood, but this is one of those rare occasions when cooking pork with gas seems like a pretty good idea.

Hillhock the Pig Couch

A tip of the snout to alert reader “Cracklin’s” Calhoun for sending me the link to the below photo.  Read all about this hog of a chair–your’s for just $950–right here.

Looks like hog heaven to me.

Judaism, Barbecue & Basketball A Dangerous Mix

Coach Pearl during better times

As a Jewish barbecue enthusiast and basketball fan, I am deeply saddened to report that University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl was fired on Monday after being embroiled (slow-cooked?) in a barbecue-related scandal.  

Pearl, the President of the Jewish Coaches Association, committed a number of violations during his tenure at UT, not the least of which was coaching his team to a humiliating 30 point loss in the first round of this year’s NCAA tournament.

According to the USA Today, “When asked by investigators where a photo of Pearl and two recruits — high school juniors — was taken, Pearl told them he didn’t know the location. The photo turned out to be taken during a barbeque at Pearl’s home.” Unfortunately for Pearl, hosting high school juniors for an off-campus recruiting visit is a no-no.  Worse yet, I have reason to suspect that the “barbeque” at Pearl’s house was really just a run-of-the-mill cookout rather than a pig picking worthy of using barbeque as a noun.  I have contacted the NCAA about my concerns and as of press time await a response.

Lest you be concerned about Pearl’s financial future, take solace in these words from UT’s press release: “Pearl will be paid at his current salary rate through June 30, 2011. He will also receive $50,000 per month for 12 months, from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, and will also receive health insurance costs. This cumulative figure is $948,728.” In short, it sounds like Pearl will “earn” plenty of gelt to buy himself, and any high school juniors he’d like to invite, a proper pig picking.

Not all Jewish basketball coaches are corrupt.  Most notably, renowned Celtics coach Red Auerbach was a Jew, and he was even inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (along with that lesser basketball hall of fame in Springfield, MA).  Yep, ol’ Red has a place in the Jewish Sports Hall alongside other legendary members of the tribe—pro bowler Marshall Holman, Canadian Football star Noah Cantor and, of course, renowned canoeist Joe Jacobi. Despite this impressive roster of Jewish sports stars, I can’t help but wonder, do Baptists or Presbyterians find it necessary to have their own sports halls of fame? Or are they too busy hosting real barbecues?

The Year in Re-‘Cue

It’s getting awfully close to barbecue competition and festival season, so I’ve updated the Events page with all the latest info. If you know of a BBQ-related festival or similar event that I am missing please let me know.  See the full list at

Dillard’s Departs

The news hit hard this week: We’re losing Dillard’s. Sad days for the Durham barbecue community.

The institution of an eatery, in business since 1953, will open its doors today for the last time. Dillard’s may not have cooked the state’s best barbecue (see the propane smoker in the rear), but it oozed community and served some just-like-you-wished-your-grandma-did cooking (see Porky’s past review).

Those who’ve never been can get a sense of Dillard’s through these moving pictures, courtesy of ABC-11. The segment confirms that part of the reason for the restaurant’s closing was that owner Wilma Dillard, daughter of founder Samuel, didn’t want to raise prices on folks in these hard times.

That reminded me of the recent ‘cue community rallying around Bullock’s when it became known that Durham’s oldest (1952) ‘cue shack was teetering on the edge. With Dillard’s, we never got the chance. And while I can’t help but wish Wilma had tried raising prices, I respect the heck out of why she didn’t.

Instead of mourning the restaurant’s closing, today is a day to celebrate Dillard’s fabulous greens, fluffy hushpuppies and solid barbecue. And did we mention the fried chicken? If you do head over to Fayetteville Rd., tip your cap (and leave a healthy retirement bonus) to a family that has fed all comers for decades, sometimes for free.

Here’s one quick story from a posting on the Downtown Durham listserv:

When I came to Durham in 1972, I noticed a large display ad in the Durham Morning Herald. It showed Sam Dillard dressed in a white suit with a gold-headed cane. The caption said, “I may not be a colonel, but I do make good chicken.”

Then a few weeks later there was piece saying that Kentucky Fried had sued him, on the grounds that use of the colonel’s trademark suit might cause confusion. [While] Sam Dillard is large and African American, [and] it wasn’t clear [what] the confusion was, KFC won. Then a few weeks after that came another ad, showing Mr. Dillard dressed in overalls. He was standing next to a fallen tree, and on the log was a neatly folded stack of white clothes with the cane leaning against it. The caption said, “Well, they took my colonel suit away from me, but I still make good chicken.”

The ad in question

Finally, we’ll leave you with the verse from Deuteronomy that Wilma and the crew have long had on their message board:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

BBQ and Baseball

Barbecue and baseball are both great American traditions, but do the two have an intertwined history? A curious reader who shall remain nameless unless he’d like to be named asked me the following questions, which I was unable to answer (Bob Garner and John Shelton Reed were also stumped):

Do you know if BBQ was ever served during baseball games throughout North Carolina for any of the minor league farm teams?

Is there any historical connection between barbecue and baseball in North Carolina, that you know of?

It seems logical to assume that ballparks in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Kinston, Burlington, and the like had BBQ at their concessions stands at some point. However, I’m only familiar with the relatively recent history of soon-to-be extinct (tune in Friday) Dillard’s BBQ in Durham offering food at the Durham Bulls’ concessions.  Any readers know of additional BBQ-baseball connections in NC?

Porky’s Pulpit: ACC BBQ Power Rankings, Part II

In case you missed it, on Friday (well past tip off time) I posted the historical ACC BBQ Power Rankings.  Today I present the ACC BBQ Power Rankings based on modern day BBQ culture in and around each of the ACC schools.

1. Wake ForestWake is located in Winston-Salem, which has a couple of traditional pit cooked restaurants within the city limits. More to the point, Wake is just a long 3-pointer away from Lexington, Salisbury and other barbecue holy ground. That’s enough to earn it top place in my book. 

2. Carolina – Chapel Hill has a fairly well-deserved reputation as a yuppie, yankee town. Most of the residents of Chapel Hill wouldn’t know good barbecue if it walked right up to them and introduced itself.  Still, Chapel Hill is home to Allen & Son, absolutely one of the best barbecue joints anywhere.  Allen’s is to Chapel Hill what Michael Jordan is to Carolina–a living legend. 

3. NC State  – Raleigh is a surprisingly weak barbecue town given it’s the capital and contains lots of native North Carolinians.  Still, it has enough barbecue culture to rank third in the ACC, a weak conference for barbecue these days.

4. Clemson – I have never been to Clemson, but it is the only current ACC school in South Carolina (the University of South Carolina was a founding member of the ACC).  Although I am biased against the state of South Carolina for no particular reason other than my birthplace one state north, I concede that SC has a solid barbecue culture.  Enjoy my generosity, Clemson fans.

5. Duke – Durham has a good deal of barbecue tradition, with its tobacco heritage. However, the barbecue culture in Durham is nothing special. There are a couple of decent BBQ joints and that’s about it. But in the ACC, that’s enough for a 5 seed.

6. Georgia Tech – Like I said on Friday, Atlanta is a big, new south city where sushi is as common as barbecue. But there are lots of barbecue joints in and around Atlanta, not to mention the rest of Georgia.  Anywhere that has that much slow-cooked pork deserves to be in the top half of the conference.

7. University of Virginia – Despite the state’s proud barbecue history, Virginia’s present day barbecue culture is pretty pathetic. Sure, Smithfield hams are good, but that ain’t barbecue.

8. Florida State – Tallahassee is the state capital and surely some of those high cholesterol legislators eat barbecue, right?  At least ribs?

9. Virginia Tech – I don’t know if there even is a barbecue joint in Blacksburg. If so, it probably isn’t any good.

10. University of Miami – When you spend so much time on the beach (or walking down the street) in a swimsuit, barbecue doesn’t stand a chance.  But at least Miami students can drive a little ways outside of the city and track down some southern culture.

11. Maryland – Maryland is arguably more southern than much of Florida. But College Park is not.

12. Boston College – I checked a map today and Boston College remains in Boston (well, Chestnut Hill but close enough).

Porky’s Pulpit: ACC BBQ Power Rankings, Part I

As you may have noticed if you’re not in a pork-induced coma, it’s the weekend of the ACC Tournament.  In my humble opinion, this weekend is one of the best of the year to be a North Carolinian.  With that in mind, I present to you a two part series ranking ACC schools based solely on barbecue. On Monday, I’ll provide an ACC barbecue power rankings based on the present day barbecue culture, but today I focus on ranking ACC schools based on barbecue history.

1. Carolina
 – UNC is the oldest public university in the country and is located in the center of the state, midway between downeast barbecue strongholds and Lexington-style country.  Sure, Chapel Hill itself has no real barbecue tradition, but you can bet your baby blue best that the students who attended Carolina from the early days on knew a thing or two about ‘cue. 

2. University of Virginia –  A surprise second place finish on a website devoted to North Carolina barbecue? Not really. What we now think of as NC BBQ originated in colonial days in Virginia, where pork cooked over an open pit and served with vinegar thrived for many years. Virginia is more of a country ham state nowadays, but it’s barbecue roots are deep.

3. NC State  – Needless to say, the state of North Carolina has a rich barbecue past and present. However, none of the ACC schools in North Carolina are really barbecue towns. Historically speaking, Raleigh-based NC State gets the nod. Raleigh has been the capital for a right long time and politics and barbecue have been intertwined since the dawn of time (or politics, whichever came first).

4. Duke – Sure, Duke kids are mostly from the northeast, but Duke is in Durham. Durham, of course, was a huge tobacco manufacturing town from the mid-19th century until recently. What two things are intertwined as closely as barbecue and politics? Barbecue and tobacco.  Any town that has a long history of tobacco auctions has a long tradition of barbecue.

5. Wake Forest – Okay, so Wake Forest has not been in Winston-Salem for long.  But Winston-Salem itself is a tobacco town (see above) and is near the heart of Lexington-style barbecue country.  I’d rank Wake above Duke if it had been located in Winston-Salem a little longer.

6. Georgia Tech – Atlanta is a big, new south city these days where sushi is as common as barbecue. But Atlanta, and the rest of Georgia, has plenty of barbecue history. Or so I’m told by Georgians.

7. Clemson – Why rank Georgia Tech ahead of Clemson given all the barbecue culture in South Carolina. Well, the short answer is that I’m from North Carolina so always treat South Carolina and its people unfairly.

8. Virginia Tech – As far as I know, Blacksburg VA, nestled in the mountains, has little to no barbecue tradition. But at least it’s in Virginia (see #2 above).

9. Florida State – Floridians think they have barbecue tradition. Florida is southern after all, and Tallahassee is the state capital.  That’s enough for #9 in my book.

10. University of Miami – Technically speaking, Miami is in Florida.  And technically Florida is in the south. Beyond that, Miami doesn’t have much going for it, barbecue-wise.  Plus, the University is really in Coral Gables.

11. Maryland – Have you ever been to College Park?  People have eaten barbecue in Washington, D.C. for a long time and College Park is just a few miles away.  But like I said, have you ever been to College Park?

12. Boston College – As far as I know Boston College has always been located in Boston. If that is incorrect please let me know. (Okay, so I stand corrected, it is now in Chestnut Hill, but close enough.)

Hillsborough Hog Day Has A New Month – May!

Breaking news out of historic Hillsborough, site of the annual Hillsborough Hog Day.  One of the event’s organizers, Margaret Wood Cannell of the local Chamber of Commerce, wrote to share the following news:

“[W]e have changed the date of the 29th Annual Hillsborough Hog Day.  We have historically held Hog Day on the third weekend in June, but the temperature on that day has risen an average of 7 degrees over the last 10 years.  It’s just too danged hot.  So, for the first time ever, we’re holding Hog Day on the third Saturday in May.  The event will be held in River Park, right behind the Orange County Courthouse (exactly where it was last year) on Friday, May 20 from 6 to 9 pm and on Saturday, May 21 from 9 am to 6 pm.”

That is good news, IMHO, as I’ve sweat through far too many brutally hot Hog Days myself.  When the temperature outside feels like the inside of a pig cooker it’s just plain too hot. Plus, I have always been surprised that one of the Elvis impersonators at Hog Day haven’t had a Presley-like heart attack on stage in the heat–sequined polyester jumpsuits are brutal, take my word for it.

On a related note, I’m behind on updating the BBQ festivals listing on this website but promise to do so fairly soon. Keep an eye on the Events tab at the top of the page…