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.

Yum Yum on Yom Kippur

At sundown tonight begins Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  This is the most important holy day for most Jews, and is considered a time to atone for one’s sins in the past year.  Yom Kippur is an intense holiday, even by Jewish standards, and all that intensity can make a brother from the Tribe quite hungry.  Unfortunately, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting.

As described on “Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is  well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even  water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom  Kippur.”

Luckily, there are some loopholes.  Back to “As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to… People with other illnesses should consult a physician and a rabbi  for advice.”  Okay, so that covers women who just had a baby and young kids.  But what about other women, men, and kids at heart?  Can one argue that a day of fasting is a threat to life or health?  To answer these questions one need only consult Talmudic barbecue scholars.

Indeed, there may be a case to be made that abstaining from barbecue is, indeed, a threat to one’s life and health. In his collection of essays, Feeding a Yen, Calvin Trillin makes a rabbinical case for barbecue.  In an essay entitled “Barbecue and Home,” Trillin describes a talk he gave at the 2002 Southern Foodways Symposium.  One of the speakers Trillin followed was Marcie Cohen Ferris, a Jew who grew up in the south and lived a pork-free existence noted in her terrific book, Matzoh Ball Gumbo.  (Ferris now lives in North Carolina and is a Professor at UNC at Chapel Hill.)

Trillin writes of his remarks to Symposium attendees,  “[T]he barbecue from [Ed Mitchell’s old place in] Wilson, North Carolina, had put me in an expansive and ecumenical frame of mind. I said I deeply regretted that Marcie Ferris and the people she grew up with in Arkansas hadn’t known about the Barbecue Easement granted by the Joplin Rebbe, a distinguished Talmudist and pit master. According to that wise teacher’s ruling, observant Jews who are bona fide residents of the South and Lower Midwest are permitted to eat meat that has been subjected to slow direct heat for more than six hours and comes from any farm animal that does not have scales.”

If Trillin says it, it must be true.  Carrying Trillin’s argument one step further, it seems reasonable to conclude that observant southern Jews should spend their Day of Atonement atoning for the sin of avoiding pork the rest of the year.  Failing to atone for this sin could threaten ones life and health, surely.  And what better way to atone than a plate of barbecue the evening of Yom Kippur?

[Thanks to reader Steve “Ham”mond for alerting me to Trillin’s book.  And thanks to everyone else for understanding that this post is just a joke and is no more serious than Trillin’s description of Talmudic teachings.]

New (?) BBQ Joint in Salisbury

Rick’s Barbecue & Grill has opened–or maybe it has been open for awhile, I really don’t know–in Salisbury, the birthplace of Piedmont/”Lexington”-style barbecue.  See the article in the Salisbury Post for details, and drop me a line if you know whether this is a new restaurant or not. From the article, it sounds like a reincarnation or renaming of a previous restaurant but I am baffled.

Porky’s Pulpit: Barbecue & Baseball

October is hands-down my favorite month of the year.  All of a sudden the 95+ degree weather of North Carolina summer seems to be a distant memory–except when it is still present–and is replaced by cool nights and temperate days.  The leaves change colors but don’t really clog up the gutters until next month.  The sunset is still at a reasonable hour.  You get the picture.  October is also a month full of fun–beer festivals, fall festivals, The Barbecue Festival in Lexington, pig pickings and, notably, playoff baseball.  Of course, October is not the only link between baseball and barbecue.

Barbecue and baseball both take a long time, and for much of that time it appears to the casual observer that not much is happening.  Experienced observers know that a lot is happening even when nothing is happening, or so we tell each other.

Barbecue and baseball are consumed by many but fully appreciated by a relative few.  Similarly, baseball snobs and barbecue snobs can be insufferable–I am both so I know.

Making barbecue and watching baseball are perfect times to drink beer.

Eating barbecue and playing baseball are inappropriate times to drink beer.

There is a long history of tobacco in baseball, from early baseball cards coming in packs of cigarettes to chewin’ and spittin’ and the like.  Barbecue has much tobacco-related history too.  (Okay, so pretty much everything connects to tobacco one way or another, admittedly.)

The best barbecue restaurants and baseball stadiums are revered as much for their history as the product they offer.

Barbecue is made of pork, baseballs are made of cows.

There is often good baseball played north of the Mason-Dixon line; there is rarely good barbecue in that geography.

Baseball’s fan base is eroding, barbecue’s is expanding.

There is no Major League baseball team in North Carolina.  There are several major league barbecue restaurants here.

It takes 18 men to play a game of baseball* and only 1 to make barbecue.  (However, as soon as 1 man starts to cook barbecue, 17 others arrive ready to eat it.)

*Yes, 18, not 20, as I feel the same way about the designated hitter as I do about gas/electric cookers.