2011 BBQ Jew of theYear: Bruce Pearl

Although it is only August, former University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has already locked up the prestigous 2011 BBQ Jew of the Year award [Editor’s note: See our March 23rd, 2011 profile of Coach Pearl here].  Coach Pearl is one of the country’s highest profile Jewish sports figures.  He was fired from Tennessee this spring in the aftermath of an NCAA investigation surrounding a recruiting violation that took place over barbecue at Pearl’s home in Knoxville in 2008, and the subsequent cover-up.  A few days ago the NCAA announced that Pearl is banned from any recruiting for the next three years.  What did Coach Pearl do when he found out about the NCAA’s penalty?  Naturally, he had a barbecue.

In order to respond to the NCAA’s announcement, Coach Pearl hosted a “press luncheon, where barbecue was once again served.”  It is unclear whether Pearl saw any irony in serving barbecue at an event intended to discuss, and take responsibility for, the penalties imposed on him for an illegal barbecue.  Whether or not he recoginized the irony, Pearl has secured the 2011 BBQ Jew of the Year award.  After all, Coach Pearl either:

a) Realized the irony of having the media over for barbecue and relished in the dark humor of it all, a bad ass move that would make a mob boss proud.

or

b) Did not think that there was anything odd about returning to the scene of the crime to address the media, since his love of barbecue is so strong.

Whatever Coach Pearl was thinking, he is clearly a dedicated BBQ Jew.  Bravo Coach Pearl, and may your next coaching job be somewhere in the south so you can keep on eating ‘cue and doing it your way.

BBQ&A: Porky LeSwine on WPTF-680 AM

As a barbejournalist, usually I am the one who gets to ask the tough-as-overdone-brisket questions, but tonight the tables will be turned.  I will be appearing live on the radio with host Tom Kearney of WPTF-680 from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m.  Tom jokingly describes his show as “like the poor man’s Charlie Rose,” which is fitting because I am definitely a poor man’s version of a celebrity.

The thought of talking live on the radio for an hour is enough to make me want to hide under a large BBQ tray until the sun rises tomorrow.  Tune in to see whether I remain conscious… and to see whether this is actually all some elaborate set up to have me assassinated, as Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is one of WPTF’s sponsors.

Only in New York: Kosher Pork

A tip of the snout to alert reader and longtime BBQ buddy Ike Walker*, who alerted me to a story in the New Yorker about pork that was mistakenly labeled Kosher in a Queens supermarket. Although pork is by definition not Kosher (or treyf, if you want to show off), few things could be more Kosher than reading an article in the New Yorker about pork.  And it’s a pretty interesting story too.

Among several gems in the story: “In this era of budget cuts, [New York] state has laid off all eight of its  Kosher-enforcement inspectors, leaving Rabbi Weiss as a one-man department… .” State-funded Kosher inspectors?  Really? Better yet, I am pleased by the discovery of the Orthodox Union, which according to the article, has a “voice-mail recording [that] describes it as “the global leader in Kosher supervision and the world’s largest Jewish resource.”  The Orthodox Union, among many other things, certifies products as Kosher and offers a “Kosher Alerts” RSS feed.  A recent alert:

“Brands: West Coast Select
Products: Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye
Company: Sundance Seafood LTD., Surrey British Columbia
Issue: Unauthorized OU
West Coast Select Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye bear an unauthorized OU symbol.  This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union, and it is being withdrawn from the marketplace. ”

I am thinking about trying to get OU certification for my favorite local BBQ joint, Allen & Son’s, so I can dine completely guilt-free.  Until then, the BBQ Jew certifies all pork as Kosher.  Keep on swinin’ and dinin’.

*Notably, Mr. Walker is also the man whose family introduced me to pig pickin’s way back when.

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?

Unhinged Ramblings from a Real New Yorker, Part II

Below is a message I recently received from New Yorker Aaron Weiss, wanna be BBQ expert and all around good sport.

————

Hello Mr. LeSwine,

You may remember me from my Durham-area trip report from last spring. In fact, you posted it (with editorial comment!) on your web site. [Editor’s note: indeed I do remember you, with editorial comment.] I owe you a follow up, but I am afraid it may it ruffle your pig feathers. (Flying pigs have feathers, little known fact.)

This past January we drove home up north after a winter holiday in Florida [Editor’s note: typical for a New Yorker!]. On the way toward an overnight stop in Winston-Salem [Editor’s note: atypical for a New Yorker], I realized that we would be driving through Lexington. I know from reading your site and other ‘cue blogs that Lexington is considered a holy ground, but had not had a chance to visit before. Sadly, I do not yet own a smart phone, and I wanted to do the smart thing by referring to BBQ Jew before wandering into Lexington naked and clueless. So I stopped at a McDonald’s to take a ride on their free wifi, grabbed my netbook
from the trunk, and loaded up bbqjew.com [Editor’s note: and ordered a delicious McRib sandwich?].

We pulled into Lexington and stopped at, of course, Lexington #1. We ordered two “large” pork platters, one in the standard chop style and one in a “coarse” chop. Now, before I speak the words of heresy, let me be clear that we enjoyed our meals. I mean, come on — NC barbecue pork!  But…I have a few buts.

Portions were a little skimpy for the price. Maybe I am just the “pig” here, but a little more pork for the money would have seemed more fair. Likewise, we felt a little shorted on the vinegar sauce [Editor’s note: next time just ask for more, this is North Carolina, we’re friendly like that]. The Lexington-style cole slaw wasn’t quite to my taste, especially compared to Allen & Son, although my partner liked it more.

In sum, we enjoyed our meal but didn’t walk away feeling like we were on barbecue cloud nine, like we did at Allen & Son (and, before it went under, Barbecue Joint). I realize that this reaction is not quite in line with the orthodoxy, and so if I am now cast out of the tribe, I will understand and return to eating Buffalo wings. [Editor’s note: If you were Catholic, I’d listen to you repent for your sins, but as a fellow member of the tribe it’d be more appropriate for me to try and make you feel guilty… just remember to atone for your failures next time Yom Kippur rolls around.]

Porkless in NY,
Aaron

BBQ&A: Sam Suchoff, The Pig Chef-Owner

Sam Suchoff is not your typical pit boss.  But then The Pig is not your typical barbecue joint. Indeed, Suchoff has a damn near disturbing range of culinary experience for a barbecue cook.  More to the point, much of the fare he serves at The Pig veers away from North Carolina barbecue tradition with menu items like brisket, tamales, kielbasa and, yes, even country fried tofu. 

Veering away from tradition is not necessarily a bad thing because many traditional North Carolina barbecue joints offer little on their menus worth sampling beyond the holy trinity of barbecue, slaw and hushpuppies (which, to be fair, is not necessarily a bad thing either).  Suchoff offers a wide-ranging, pork-centric menu, but he respects the tradition of whole hog barbecue and that reverence is evident along with his creativity. 

In a recent interview, Suchoff was kind enough to share with me the reasons he cooks with an electric smoker, why barbecue is the dish he’s most proud of cooking despite all the variety on his menu, and why vegetarianism is an easy way to get girls (at least in L.A.).  Follow this link to read the interview.

BBQ, Jews and the Law

According to a January 10th article in the International Business Times, “A company suing Cisco systems for patent infringement got a new trial because Cisco’s attorney made remarks about a plaintiff’s religion, drawing attention to the fact that he is Jewish.”

What does this story have to do with BBQ you ask (no, really, you do)? The IBT article continues: “The remarks, by one of Cisco’s attorneys, Otis Carroll, were in a cross examination of Jonathan David, one of [the plaintiff’s] principals. According to the filing, Carroll said, ‘Well, did you eat dinner with him? Did you talk to him? Did you say hi to him?’ David answered yes, they had had dinner at Bodacious Barbeque and Carroll said, ‘I bet not pork.'”

The moral of this story? Never make not-so-veiled references to other people’s religious beliefs. Also, never assume a Jew doesn’t like pork barbecue. Or else we may just sue you.