Happy BBQ Jew Year 2012

Happy New Year readers.  I hope the year ahead is full of promises fulfilled and absent any regrets.  That said, I do have one regret already this year: I didn’t spend the first day of 2012 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Why? In a word, barbecue.  In two words, free barbecue.

According to an article in the Fayetteville Observer, 3,000 to 4,000 people were expected to attend a “traditional and free Southern New Year’s Day meal of black-eyed peas, collard greens, barbecue and local politics at the Crown Expo Center on East Mountain Drive on Sunday.”  The local tradition dates to the early 1970s and is still going strong four decades later.  Sounds to me like a tradition other cities in NC need to copy…

Hebrew Hog Holiday Cards

The latest item I’ve added to the BBQ Jew store is here just in time for the holidays: a Hebrewific holiday card.  Eat your heart out, Hallmark, you couldn’t touch this greeting card if you named MC Hammer your CEO: http://www.zazzle.com/hog_sameach_holiday_card-137983403322988292

Special thanks to Dale Volberg Reed, co-author of Holy Smoke, for her clever “hog sameach” turn of phrase, which inspired this card.  Dale, I officially proclaim you an honorary BBQ Jew for life.  (And, yes, membership has its privileges as you’ll get 10% of my sure-to-be-huge net sale proceeds for this card.)

Happy Thanksgiving

Earlier this week I said I’d complete my virtual trip to Wilson by week’s end with a review of Bill Ellis Barbecue.  How wrong I was.  I’d somehow forgotten about Thanksgiving.

Out of respect for the Pilgrims, the Indians and all you hard working turkeys out there, I’ll save the Bill Ellis Barbecue post for next week.  Until then, have a wonderful holiday and thanks for reading.

Oh, and keep in mind that North Carolina barbecue sauce can help rescue your from leftover turkey land.  Chop up some turkey, douse it in sauce and serve on a bun with some slaw and you’ve got a passable pork BBQ substitute in case your favorite ‘cue joint is closed all weekend.

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.]

Porky’s Pulpit: Happy Labor Day 2011

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court justice, Jewish southerner, and barbecue enthusiast.*

In honor of Labor Day, that holiday where we browse mattress sale flyers and mourn the end of the summer (while simultaneously celebrating the fact that our kids are going back to school), it’s worth taking a minute to reflect on the holiday’s serious origin. Especially in today’s political climate, where the idea of celebrating organized labor seems downright unpatriotic, please remember that America’s robber barons didn’t always have our nation’s best interests at heart; since many corporations are publicly held, nowadays we can trust their leaders fully.  Likewise, politicians weren’t always staunch advocates for the middle class and working poor like they are today.  In fact, in 1894 President Grover Cleveland dispatched thousands of troops to suppress a strike that started at the Pullman railcar company, an act that resulted in significant political fallout and lead in short order to a national Labor Day holiday.

So, when you are signing the receipt for your new mattress (made overseas at a union-free factory, presumably), pause for a moment and remember that we did not always have minimum wage standards, child labor laws, a forty hour work week and the like.  But don’t let your rememberance get in the way of a good Labor Day cookout.  I think folks of all political stripes, and captains of industry and laborers alike, can agree that firing up a grill is a worthy way to celebrate the holiday.  And I am sure the ghost of Louis Brandeis will forgive you for indulging in some pork… in solidarity with the working man, of course.

*Technically speaking, this post-Oxford comma statement is unconfirmed.  However, Brandeis grew up in Kentucky so it is at least possible that he enjoyed ‘cue.

Happy Fourth of July

Happy July 4th, readers.  I hope you are celebrating America’s birthday in style, or at least with a day off of work.  In case you are feeling extra patriotic today, visit America’s neighborhood store, Ebay to obtain these Patriotic Pig Salt & Pepper Shakers.  I’ve got $10 that these lovely creatures are made in China, but you can only prove me wrong if you buy ’em.

Happy Father’s Day 2011

Since I spent Father’s Day weekend at the beach with my wife and kids, I’ve had no time to prepare a post for today.  Instead, please accept my sincere wishes that you and your’s had a good and barbecue-fueled Father’s Day.  In lieu of a post, my gift to you dads out there is the below half-eaten BBQ sandwich from last year’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington.  Hey, it’s better than another tacky tie, right?