Porky’s Pulpit: Say It Ain’t So, Jared

I recently spent a weekend in our nation’s capital visiting friends.  The visit was going well until I exited a Metro train, headed up the escalator and encountered this horrifying sight:

What's wrong with this picture? Everything.

There are a many things wrong with the image above:

1) Despite the food styling, flattering lighting, airbrushing and god knows what else this sandwich was subjected to in preparation for its big showcase, it looks inedible.

2) Only a fool would pour gloopy barbecue sauce on top of pulled pork. Then again only a fool would order a BBQ sandwich at Subway. It makes the gray, lifeless Philly cheese steak Jared’s benefactors hawk look almost appealing.

3) Only someone out to harm our nation’s vital interests would place pork barbecue on top of lettuce on a sandwich.  The Department of Homeland Security should stop frisking infants and the infirm and focus instead on this serious threat to America.

4)  A barbecue sandwich where the bread is a sub roll? No thanks.

5) The tagline “Get Pulled In” is more of a threat than an invitation, particularly when paired with the BBQ sauce bullseye/vortex pictured to the right of the sandwich.

I could go on but you catch my drift.  Could it really be as bad as it looked?  As the nation’s most fearless North Carolina-based Jewish barbecue journalist, I knew I could not rest until I hunted down the Abominable Pulled Pig in its natural habitat.  How else would the public be made aware of this imminent threat to the American way of life?

On the way back home from D.C. I made a pit stop in Rawlings, the scuba capital of central Virginia.  It was there, under the harsh flourescent lights of a Subway/gas station/Dunkin Donuts that I spotted the beast. Luckily, I was protected by a sparkling clean glass sneeze guard and was able to photograph the pulled pork without risking life and limb.

As the sauce-stained pork lay silenty in its black plastic cage, reconciled to its fate, I suddenly felt sorry for it. While other pulled porks were cooking away over wood coals with salivating customers eagerly awaiting them, this pork was all alone despite its crowded surroundings.  Pepperoni, provolone, guacamole and the like have nothing to offer a proud pulled pork.  Sure, other pulled porks don’t get displayed on a poster in the Metro or a digital billboard near Petersburg, but was the fame worth it?  Was its life really going to come to an end on an Italian roll being served to an unappreciative BBQ Jew?

Well, not exactly. I ran out the door screaming before I could bring myself to order this vile creation.  But it lurks out there awaiting the next oxygen-deprived inland scuba diver to get pulled in

Porky’s Pulpit: Reasons to Visit Minnesota (or to Stay Home)

I recently returned from a week’s vacation in northern Minnesota, a short canoe trip (or long drive, your choice) from the Canadian border.  In case you and your’s are considering a journey to the land of 10,000 lakes, perhaps you’ll find the below comparative analysis helpful.

                                                    North Carolina      versus      Minnesota

Official State Bird                Cardinal                                           Common Loon

Unofficial State Bird           Chicken (Fried or BBQ’d)            Mosquito

Political Embarassment    John Edwards                                State government shutdown

Typical July Weather          95 degrees                                       75 degrees

Key Word/Phrase                 “Ain’t”                                              “You betcha”

“Athlete”/Politician             Richard “The King” Petty             Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Food of Choice                        Barbecue                                          Hot Dish (aka casserole)

State Religion                         Baptist/NASCAR                            Lutheran/Ice Fishing

Auto Accessory                      Calvin peeing sticker                     Snow chains

Minnesota is a beautiful state, but please don’t visit for its barbecue, which in my limited experience is, to put it as politely as possible, horrible.  Pictured at left is the “pork barbecue” sandwich I had the misfortune of ingesting on July 4th. Believe me when I say our founding fathers would have been appalled.





Farewell and Spar for the Spurtle

Fly your barbecue flag at half mast, for today is my brother-in-swine Conor’s final day in North Carolina.  Despite developing a strong affinity for barbecue during his several years in the Tar Heel state, he is returning to his salmon-crazy homeland of Seattle.  In honor of Conor’s return to the west coast, allow me to post the below message from a typical, barbecue-ignorant west coast company, Bob’s Red Mill:

“Hi Porky-

I’m writing to follow up with you on the information I sent about Bob’s Red Mill’s Spar for the Spurtle Recipe Contest.

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods recently announced its first ever Spar for the Spurtle Recipe Contest, which invites home cooks and professional chefs alike to submit videos demonstrating a unique recipe that makes use of Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats – the World’s Best Oats. From the entries, three finalists will be flown to Portland, Ore. to compete in a live cook-off, in which the winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Scotland, to represent Bob’s Red Mill in the 18th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, $2,500 in cash, and several other prizes. The deadline to submit a video is July 30, 2011.

Full details, images and a 2011 Spar for the Spurtle prep video that you can download or post on your blog are available at http://pitch.pe/156688.  For additional Spar for the Spurtle information, please see the contest website. Also, check out Bob’s Red Mill on Twitter and Facebook.”

See what you are getting into, Conor?  So long barbecue and hello oatmeal.  Still, may the pork be with you in your new life, Swinefactor.  Keep in touch and do let me know what a spurtle is when you get a chance.

Good luck finding a view like this in Seattle, buddy.

Barbecue in Canada, eh?

Canadian Bacon: Not Just John Candy’s Last Movie

Until yesterday I was under the impression that Canadian bacon is the only meat the Canucks consume with gusto.  Little did I realize Canadians also eat North Carolina barbecue.  Well, at least some of them do.  Yesterday I received an excited note from my good friend Jeremy Goldcue, whose folks escaped the sweltering Carolina heat to settle in Toronto, Ontario quite a few years back.  Evidently Dr. David Goldcue, Jeremy’s old man, has at long last discovered a cure for the chronic hunger that ails all Canada-via-Carolina transplants: authentic Canadian barbecue.

In late 2010, Toronto’s Drake Hotel opened a… wait for it… barbecue joint.  Drake BBQ chef Anthony Rose explains his qualifications for making barbecue as follows: “I grew up in the south–southern Ontario anyway.”  A sense of humor is a good sign for a barbecue cook, so I’ll give Chef Rose a pass for relying on the seldom used (in Carolina) phrase “pulled pork” to describe his “Carolina”-style barbecue.  Drake BBQ’s menu is endearingly straightforward–a small selection of sides, and main courses limited to a brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, or “60/60” sandwich that features equal parts brisket and pork (maybe 60/60 Canadian is equal to 50/50 American, given the exchange rate and Canada’s inflationary economic policies?).

The Obvious Question: Is Canadian ‘Cue Edible?

Dr. Goldcue raves about Drake BBQ.  Are his raves to be taken seriously or merely the lunatic ravings of a barbecue-deprived dual citizen? Having known Dr. Goldcue for a good many years, I can attest that he is a reasonable man.  Also, there is photographic evidence of Chef Rose cooking meat in a smoker, surely a positive sign.  Still, Dr. Goldcue should not be given a free pass: I have my suspicions of any former North Carolina resident exiled to the pork-scarce Great White North.  For barbecue lovers, the best analogy to living in Canada is serving a life sentence in prison–any member of the opposite sex is sure to attract attention from hungry eyes.  Until I taste Drake BBQ’s offerings for myself, I will reserve judgment as to whether their food is good or Dr. Goldcue has simply lost his bearings so close to the north pole (no closer to the pole than New York City, he might point out, but that would only confirm my suspicions).

BBQ Jew’s Virtual Field Trip to China

A tip of the snout to my biggest supporters (and occassional blog readers), my mom and dad, who sent me two pork-related news items from China. 

First, in an article that is evidently true even though it sounds like it is ripped off from The Onion: a food additive that turns pork into beef.  The additive does a convincing job of transforming relatively inexpensive meats like pork into beef.  Of course, there may be a few minor side effects; as the article says, “long-term use of additives can cause slow poisoning, deformity, and even cancer.”  But, hey, if you are going to be poisoned it seems like slow poisoning is the way to go (after all, it allows plenty of time to digest your fake-beef meal before you die).

Think the above pork-beef is unappetizing?  Well, at least it doesn’t glow in the dark.  A Shanghai resident identified as Miss Chen made dumplings with her family one recent evening and put the leftover pork on a table in the kitchen before heading to bed.  She was in for a rude awakening later that night.  According to an article that includes some disturbing photos, “At 11pm, Miss Chen got out of bed to use the toilet, and suddenly noticed a faint blue glow coming from the kitchen, and that the bright blue glow was coming from the pork itself!”  Rest assured, this blue-glowing pork was deemed safe to eat by local authorities so I’m sure there is nothing to worry about.  After all, China has a sterling reputation for monitoring product safety.

Until I hear some better news about pork in Asia’s China, I’ll stick to getting my barbecue pork from places like Gary’s in China Grove.

We Don’t Need No Education (aka Another Brick in the Pit)

According to an incredibly uninformative (seriously, check it out) Associated Press article, “Students at an elementary school in the Kansas City School District are collaborating on a DVD and book on the life of barbecue legend Ollie Gates.”  Though the article provides no more information on this collaboration, it does note that Gates plans to reward the students by spending a day “playing checkers and having a picnic with [the] students.”  For the sake of those elementary schoolers, let’s hope Ollie is cooking for the picnic instead of the cafeteria ladies.

Although the article above contains virtually no information (have you checked it out yet?), it got me thinking.  As important as barbecue is to North Carolina history, somebody should develop a BBQ curriculum to be woven into social studies, history and other K-12 classes.  What better way to get kids to pay attention in class than a discussion of barbecue that culminates in a year end pig pickin’?  Heck, you could even have kids in science class dissect a whole hog. I mean, what’s more useful in life, knowing the anatomy of a frog or knowing how to trim ribs and identify the tenderloin?

Inflammatory Barbecue Disease

I’m no doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I was still concerned by this headline: “Barbecue raises money for inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] research.”

According to an article on the Inside Toronto website, “The MandM [Meat Shops] Charity BBQ Day began in 1989 when store founder Mac Voisin learned Canadians suffer from IBD at an unusually high rate.”  It turns out that “BBQ” in this case means simply to food cooked on a grill: “People can receive a hamburger or hot dog,a drink and a bag of chips for a minimum donation of $2.50,” explains the article.  Perhaps Canadians suffer from IBD at an usually high rate due to all the burgers, hot dogs and chips? Just a theory.

There is no doubt that this event is for a good cause and I applaud MandM Meat Shops for their involvement.  Still, isn’t a junk food cookout to benefit folks with inflammatory bowel disease akin to holding an omelette breakfast to raise money for people allergic to eggs?

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,

The Economist on Barbecue: A Bit of Culture for the Cultured

When The Economist, a highly respected and intelligent international news magazine that I read*, takes on the subject of barbecue it is worth a gander.  The December 16th issue features an article that explains the predominant styles of barbecue and then delves into barbecue culture.  It’s definitely worth a read whether you are a pipe smoking member of the intelligentsia or just an ordinary Joe.

If you don’t have time to read the full article, here is The Economist’s take on North Carolina barbecue: “[The] pork, either whole hog or shoulder, is seasoned minimally if at all. The sauce, applied at table, varies. In the eastern part of the state it is usually nothing more than cider vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes. In the west it may include a bit of tomato. North Carolina barbecue at its best is as austere and perfect as a bowl of properly cooked Japanese rice. As with rice, however, perfection is exceptionally difficult to achieve, whereas mediocrity is easy. Mediocre Carolina pork will bring back memories of school dinners and premonitions of the nursing home.”  Well said for a London-based magazine.

*Okay, not very often, but I do enjoy it from time to time.