Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From the Pit 1927-1942

“In the early twentieth century, millions of Southerners moved from hardluck farms to the big cities of the North and West.  As the Great Migration carried Southern barbecue to new locales, it did the same for Southern music.”*

If had a soundtrack, without a doubt it would be the terrific new barbecue-blues compilation album, “Barbecue Any Old Time.”  The collection of vintage, early 20th century blues music about barbecue and other such meats was released in September on North Carolina’s own Old Hat Records.  Like the authentic, soulful food paid homage to throughout the album, it’s hard to find music this flavorful in today’s quick-cooked world.

One would expect an album that is a compilation of blues songs about barbecue and other southern meat treats would be a novelty record, and to a certain degree it is.  Yet despite the novelty of the concept, the album is worthy of repeated listening.  Many of the songs are as well-crafted as any of the era, and the music varies widely from track to track despite the uniformly carnivorous theme.  If your musical palate includes a taste for country blues, urban blues, string bands or even vaudeville there is something on Barbecue Any Old Time for you.

Barbecue Any Old Time serves as a terrific crash course on blues music from the 1920s to early 1940s: it is fueled by energy and mischief, prepared with great vocals and musicianship, and basted in numerous double-entendres.  Lyrics like “pepper sauce mama, you make my meat red hot” are among the more over the top refrains, but there are plenty of memorable lines to choose from on an album featuring songs like “Meat Cuttin’ Blues,” “Fat Meat is Good Meat,” and “Pig Meat is What I Crave.”   In fact, you may find yourself blushing next time you sit down for a meal.

Despite plenty of songs that lean heavily on sexual innuendo, like good barbecue the album is not as simple as it may first seem.  Taken as a collection, the songs on Barbecue Any Old Time have a hidden complexity to them that make you want to return again and again.  Perhaps that is no surprise given the caliber of musicians featured on the album.  The track listing includes blues legends like Memphis Minnie, Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee, as well as far lesser known artists like Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon, Bessie Jackson, and The Two Charlies.   The liner notes are top notch, featuring a compelling essay by Tom Hanchett, Staff Historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South, and succinct but fascinating descriptions of each track.  Also included are vintage images of barbecue joints, blues musicians, record posters, and even President Andrew Jackson (read the notes and you’ll learn why).

Musical highlights include “Big Boy” Teddy Edwards’ funny but not slight, “Who Did You Give My Barbecue To?”; Frankie Jaxon’s smokey-smooth vocals on “Give Me a Pig’s Foot and a Bottle of Beer”; the rollicking “Pepper Sauce Mama” by Charlie Campbell and His Red Peppers; and Barbecue Bob’s expertly crafted “Barbecue Blues.”  Though not every song reaches the pit-cooked perfection of these ones, nearly all are worth tasting more than once.  Barbecue Any Old Time indeed.  Congratulations to Old Hat Records for tending the fires on this slow-cooked instant classic.

*Quote from a letter by Old Hat Records promoting the album.

2012: A Pork Odyssey

The 2012 Presidential election campaign is shaping up to be heavy on pork, even leaving aside any barrels.  It all started early this year when the Democrats announced that Charlotte would host their nominating convention.  Michelle Obama immediately put her foot in her mouth by making the naive statement that Charlotte is a great BBQ town.  Hardly.

Next the News & Observer scooped by breaking the news that in his younger days Rick Perry has compared NC BBQ unfavorably to road kill, bringing into question both his political acumen and whatever part of his past gave him a taste for roadkill.

Pundits say North Carolina will be a battleground state in 2012, ending in a close vote, though I suspect NC will turn out bright red like the ketchup in Lexington-style dip.  Regardless, President Obama has been spending a lot of time in the Tar Heel state.  Most recently, he passed on an opportunity to visit his favorite Asheville barbecue joint (and if you think Charlotte has no good NC BBQ, lord knows Asheville is a joke).  Instead, Obama avoided any tree hugging, patchouli smelling Asheville barbecue in favor of Countryside Barbeque in Marion.  The POTUS still hasn’t learned where to get real NC barbecue–namely Salisbury and points east–but at least he’s headed in the right direction.

As noted barbecue aficianado John Shelton Reed is fond of joking, barbecue may well be the “third rail” issue this election cycle.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, this may be no joke.

Cackalacky Cookout for a Cause (aka “Cookacausy”?)

For those of you in striking distance of Chapel Hill, there’s a good event for a good cause this Saturday, as described by Mr. Page Skelton of Cackalacky, Inc.

“Our mighty Cackalacky cookout crew will be teaming up with our “zest friends” from A  Southern Season and Fullsteam Brewery for an awesome tailgate  party/sampling event this Saturday, October 29th!  Plus, we will also be  accepting non-perishable food donations at the gathering on behalf of the nice folks from PORCH, too! (People Offering Relief for  Chapel Hill and Carrboro Homes, or, “PORCH”  for short.)

So, please  come by the tailgate party for some tasty tunes, brews, and eats – and help support a great local cause! (And, please don’t forget  to bring a few canned or boxed food items with  you.)

What: Cackalacky-Fullsteam Tailgate  Party

Where: A Southern Season, 201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel  Hill, NC 27514

When: Saturday, October 29th  11 – 3PM

Why: Why not? (Seriously)  Well, that AND  to have a great time while we raise food donations for a great  cause!

Helpful links:

Thanks &  zestiest regards,

Page Skelton
Cackalacky, Inc.

Chili Garlic Week 2011, Baby!

I know it seems like only yesterday that you last had a huge blowout of a chili garlic celebration, but in case you’ve forgotten it’s that time of year again. That’s right, according to the good people of Cholula Hot Sauce, October 24th marks the start of National Chili Garlic Week.  Woo hoo, let the chili-garlicky good times roll all week long!

What the heck is National Chili Garlic Week?  And further more what does it have to do with  I can’t answer the first question, but the answer to the second is that I agreed to mention the week in exchange for 2 free bottles of Cholula Chili Garlic Hot Sauce.  Yes, I am that easy to bribe.  (Truthfully, regular Cholula is one of my favorite Mexican hot sauces so I couldn’t resist the freebies.)  I also received a list of “fan favorite recipes” from the folks at Cholula, including this one for Chili Garlic BBQ Sliders:

1 pound cooked, shredded or pulled chicken or pork

2 tablespoons Cholula Chili Garlic Hot Sauce
1 cup BBQ sauce, regular flavor [Editor’s note: “regular flavor”?]
5 slider buns (or small dinner rolls of your choice)
Guacamole – optional [Editor’s note: this must be the Spanish word for coleslaw]
1 sliced red onion

1. Combine 2 tablespoons Cholula Chili Garlic Hot Sauce with 1 cup BBQ sauce.

2. Combine meat and sauce together in a saucepan, heat & stir on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Assemble sliders on the bun, top with a dollop of guacamole & sliced red onions.
[Editor’s note: Optional Step 4. Pray for forgiveness from the Barbecue Gods.]

If you live in the United States and are intrigued by National Chili Garlic Week, check out the “Twitter party” on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. EST at!/cholulahotsauce.  If you live outside the U.S., wait for your own damn nation’s chili garlic week, we don’t have enough to share.  According to the letter I received along with my free hot sauce, the party features “recipes, cooking tips and telling ‘mildy offensive’ tales of garlic-passion cuisine.”  I have no clue what that means but I plan to find out and urge you to do the same, or you can send me a couple bottles of your own favorite hot sauce and I’ll pretend this whole Cholula incident never happened…

Cop on Top for a Cause

According to the Salisbury Post, China Grove Police Department officer David Lambert will be sitting on top of Gary’s Barbecue for 31 hours starting at 3 p.m. today.  The annual Cop on Top fundraiser benefits the Rowan County Relay for Life.  The event is all in good fun so I imagine officer Lambert will have no problem whatsoever with you making up your own cop-“pig” jokes… provided you donate to the fundraiser first.

For more details, contact Lambert at dlambert at or 704.855.5041, though I am not sure if he’ll be checking his messages roofside.  If you live in China Grove I suppose you can just dial 9-1-1.  The article doesn’t mention what officer Lambert will be eating while he sits on top of the roof, but my money is on barbecue.

BBQ&A: Bob Garner, North Carolina Barbecue Legend

For many Tar Heels Bob Garner‘s name and face are synonomous with North Carolina barbecue.  Garner is a beloved public television personality, restaurant reviewer, writer and barbecue guide book author, and all-around ambassador for our state’s food culture.  Whether writing or cozying up to a TV camera, Garner’s kind and authentic southern gentleman’s personality shines through.  His ability to connect with his audience and his legions of fans make him our state’s version of Al Roker or, perhaps more accurately, fellow Carolinian Charles Kuralt.

In addition to hosting and contributing to a string of popular WUNC-TV shows, Garner has appeared nationwide on the Food Network’s Paula’s Home Cookin’, featuring Paula Deen, and Food Nation with Bobby Flay; The Travel Channel’s Road Trip; and ABC’s Good Morning America.  Among his writing credits are as author of North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time and Bob Garner’s Guide to North Carolina Barbecue, two indispensible books for both barbecue enthusiasts and casual fans of the divine swine.  Garner has also written for Our State magazine, including a terrific multi-part series on traditional southern foods like collards, fried chicken, livermush and fish stew.

Over the past year or so, a leaner but no meaner Bob Garner somehow managed to increase his already sizable presence in North Carolina’s culinary scene.  He now has to his name a nicely done website (, leads culinary tours across all corners of the state, is working on a new book, and recently accepted a job as a host-cultural interpreter at The Pit restaurant in Raleigh.  Recently caught up with the prolific Garner about his past adventures and present exploits in the world of barbecue.


BBQJew: Describe a couple of memorable food-related experiences from your childhood. Did you grow up on barbecue or come to it later in life?
Bob Garner: I got interested in food while learning to cook over a fire in the Boy Scouts (and not being willing for the wilderness to defeat me!). I remember the first time I cooked wild game: I shot a squirrel, figured out how to clean and skin it, but then had no idea how to cook it properly. I threw it in the oven, under the broiler, and cooked it for about ten minutes, until it was brown. It was tough as shoe leather! But I eventually became a fair campfire cook, continued to cook in college and have stayed with it ever since.
Barbecue came later, when I married a farm girl from Northeastern North Carolina, whose bothers taught me to cook whole pigs. We did used to go to Bob Melton’s barbecue in Rocky Mount while I was growing up and when we visited a favorite aunt in Rocky Mount. I remember Mr. Melton hanging around the place, with that big cigar hanging out of a corner of his mouth.
BBQJew: Can you trace your love for barbecue to the experience at Melton’s or did the romance happen more subtly over time?
BG: Learning to cook those whole pigs (as a 20-something young married guy), being exposed to the incomparable aroma of the juices dripping onto the coals and being able to “pick” a pig for the first time was a life-changing revelation!
BBQJew: Your first book on barbecue, North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time, was released in 1996.  You were about 50 years old at the time.  How come it took 50 years to work up to such a book?  Had the idea been floating around your head for awhile or did it materialize quickly?
BG: It materialized quickly when I began to do some research on NC barbecue for my work in public television and realized no one had ever pulled history and background about North Carolina barbecue together into a book. (Several others have done it since my books came out.)
BBQJew: How did you first decide to pursue barbecue writing and barbecue reporting on television as part of your career?
BG: Purely by happenstance, when I was given an assignment to do some feature stories on famous North Carolina barbecue restaurants for the program North Carolina Now, which is still running each weeknight on UNC-TV.
BBQJew: There’s some debate among self-proclaimed purists (I confess to considering myself one, at least most days of the week) about how much of the pork cooked/gassed/electrocuted in North Carolina without wood coals can really be considered “barbecue.”  What’s your definition of North Carolina barbecue?
BG: Pork that is cooked slowly, with low heat, and which is served tender, juicy and properly sauced and seasoned, particularly if it is to be served Continue reading

If You Can’t Do the Time, Don’t Steal the Swine

A wave large ripple of hog-related crime has swept across the nation (and by nation I mean parts of the upper midwest).

The New York Times–which, I swear I read only for the pictures–reported in late September that: “This month, 150 pigs—each one weighing more than an average grown man—disappeared from a farm building in Lafayette [MN] despite deadbolts on its doors. Farther north near Lake Lillian, 594 snorting, squealing hogs disappeared last month, whisked away in the dark.  And in Iowa… pigs have been snatched, 20 or 30 at a time, from as many as eight facilities in the last few weeks… .”

The reason for the thefts? It’s the economy stupid.  Well, the economy and the commodities market.  Certainly the economy has some folks desperate to earn a buck, and hog prices are at near record highs.  The difficulty of securing and even keeping up with the thousands of hogs on an average industrial hog farm may be contributing factors.

You may wonder, where does one sell a “hot” hog?  The answer remains a mystery but if you drop by your local pawn shop and see a 200 pound hog behind the counter, I recommend calling 9-1-1.

Oh, and I should add that my favorite part of the New York Times article is this correction:  “An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Ryan Bode of Rebco Pork. Commenting on 150 missing pigs, he said, ‘My guess is that they’re bacon and pork chops already,’ not ‘baking in pork chops.'”  Only a New York Times reporter would say something as silly as “baking in pork chops.”  C’mon people, get it together.

Backcountry Back in Business

I’m a month behind on this news but since it is good news I’ll share it now.  According to the Lexington Dispatch, Backcountry Barbeque reopened in mid-September after an August 28th fire.  As of September 14th the restaurant was still serving a limited menu as it awaited some final inspections, but they should be back to full capacity by now.

I’ve not yet made it to Backcountry Barbeque but hope to someday soon.  The restaurant is owned by Doug Cook, who previously founded the excellent Cook’s Barbecue south of town; Doug’s son Brandon Cook is the pitmaster there and learned to cook from his old man.  Notably, Doug spent some time in Texas, where he learned to cook brisket, an art his son also mastered along with traditional Lexington-style pork shoulder ‘cue.

A History of Goldsboro Barbecue

Goldsboro, a city of a little under 40,000 people in eastern North Carolina, has some of the state’s richest barbecue history.  Thus, I was particularly pleased to receive the below email, written by Johnnie and Peggy Hood, and forward to me by Dave Schiller, all of whom recently attended their 50th Goldsboro High School anniversary.  Better yet, the email included an attached history of Goldsboro barbecue written by Carl Eugene McBride, Jr., whom I am currently trying to track down to be sure he is okay with me including his writing on this site… I sure hope he is because it is excellent and deserves an audience.

“(Goldsboro, NC  10/01/11) —  What started out as a few friends going  to Wilber’s Barbecue for lunch morphed into a GHS class of 1961 reunion family  style luncheon at Wilberdean Shirley’s Barbecue Emporium.  Classmates  feasted on barbecue pork (of course), barbecue chicken, fried chicken, slaw,  potato salad, Brunswick stew, hushpuppies, and biscuits (sopping biscuits like  granny used to make).  For dessert we enjoyed banana pudding that, we were  told, Wilber himself stayed up all night cooking.

Conversation topics ranged from “whatever happened to ole so and so?” to stories  from those no longer living in eastern North Carolina about the putrid and  disgusting things some people put in their barbecue sauce.  Some were  shocked to learn that some well-meaning cooks put catsup, or mustard, or  molasses, or brown sugar, just to name a few things, in the sauce and then serve  it to unsuspecting guests.

It was agreed that the reason that we GHS graduates are so good looking, so  intelligent, and so healthy is probably the Goldsboro barbecue we consumed as  children.  Harriet Taylor Ross removed any doubt by providing a PDF file history of the holy grub from Goldsboro [Editor’s note: This link opens a fascinating, 19-page history of Goldsboro barbecue]… It should be required reading in all Goldsboro Public Schools along with other important stuff that’s no longer taught.

The fiftieth reunion is a once in a lifetime event.  We enjoyed  ours.”

Countdown to The Barbecue Festival

Saturday, October 22nd is the date of The Barbecue Festival in Lexington, which is far and away North Carolina’s largest barbecue-related event.  Assuming the weather is nice, well over 100,000 people will descend on little Uptown Lexington for the day, making it perhaps the worst day of the year to visit unless you love crowds.  While October 22nd is the big day, there are Festival-related events aleady underway:

-This past Saturday was the 20th annual Tour de Pig bicycle race, which was held the same day as Ridin’ Hawg Wild, an event for folks who prefer their bikes motorized.

-Archdale resident Tabatha Allred won the 2011 Childress Idol competition on October 2nd and will sing at the Festival.

-This coming Saturday the 15th will feature the Hawg Shoot high school air rifle competition (for those who don’t mind guns at school), the Hawg Run 5K, and the Barbecue Festival Golf Tournament.

-On the weekend of the Festival, competitive folks can participate in the 1st annual Barbecue Festival Cornhole “Throw Down” or the Barbecue Festival Softball Tournament. Personally, I think horseshoes would be a more appropriate pairing with barbecue but to each his own.

-Oh, and the Pepsi “Pig Tales” Creative Writing Contest is still accepting entries for all age categories through October 14th so if you have a burning desire to write fiction that includes mentions of barbecue and Pepsi then this is your chance to make your work pay off… category winners take home 20 cases of Pepsi products.

Finally, don’t forget to book at ticket on Amtrak for its once-a-year stop in Lexington.  My family took the train to the event last year and were surround by fellow barbecue lovers, some from as far away as Long Island, NY.