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 JewFAQ.com: “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 JewFAQ.com: “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.