Porky’s Pulpit: Barbecue Ten Commandments

We all know that barbecue is akin to religion in North Carolina.  Because of this fact, it dawned on me that perhaps there are some ‘cue-related lessons to glean from religion. Today’s post focuses on barbecue-specific teachings of the ten commandments. (If I don’t get too many “burn in hell” comments from this attempt at humor, perhaps I will return to the subject another time.)

“I am the LORD your God.”  Lesson: If you’re having a whole hog pig pickin’, give Him first dibs on the ribs and tenderloin.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Lesson: To get the best parts of the pig, He must be first in line.

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”  Lesson: Don’t be the guy who asks for unsweetened tea.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Lesson: Eat no barbecue on Sundays.

“Honor thy father and thy mother.” Lesson:  When they visit, show some respect and take them to a joint that still cooks over wood.

“Thou shalt not kill.” Lesson: No killing unless it’s a hog; mere mortals gotta eat.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Lesson: At least pretend your spouse’s barbecue sauce recipe is the best.

“Thou shalt not steal.”  Lesson:  Pay at the counter like everyone else.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Lesson:  Don’t make unfounded allegations about the quality of your neighbor’s barbecue, but if he’s cooking on a gas grill then the truth shall set him free.

“Thou shalt not covet…” Lesson: You can covet your neighbor’s barbecue, just don’t drool on his wife while standing in line for seconds.

Finding Religion at a Pig Pickin’

Earlier this summer a buddy of mine invited me to join him at a pig pickin’ hosted by his co-worker, Billy Mitchell.  I’ve been to quite a few pig pickin’s before but this was my first pig pickin’ hosted by someone I’d never met.  And yet it turned out to be one of my favorites.  Maybe it was the copious amounts of roasted pork I ate, or maybe it was the bucolic location complete with a “garden” that was probably a half an acre and goats, horses and other “pets.”  Maybe it was Billy demonstrating the shag to some recent New York transplants.  Whatever it was, I truly enjoyed my time at this pig pickin’.  Thanks, Billy, for inviting me to join and for sending me home with a bag full of ‘cue big enough to make my dog drool, my wife’s eyes roll and my breath smell like pork for several days.

Fire chief by day, fire starter by night: Billy Mitchell. (Photo by Conor "Swine factor" Keeney

Fire chief by day, fire starter by night: gracious host/pitmaster Billy Mitchell. (Photo by Conor "Swine Factor" Keeney.)

As I stood at the edge of Billy’s pond with a cold beer in my hand and hot grease coursing through my veins, I got to thinking about what makes pig pickin’s so special.  What separates them from an ordinary cookout or a potluck?  As best I could determine with a belly full of pork, rolls, slaw, tea, pickled beets, banana pudding, pickles, Lexington-style dip, and beer, it’s the fellowship that makes pig pickin’s stand out.  The dictionary definition of fellowship is, a “community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience” or “a company of equals or friends.”  Something about a pig pickin’ brings out this sense of community and equality.

What causes such great fellowship at pig pickin’s?  I think it has something to do with a pig pickin’ host spending all day cooking an 100+ pound hog just in order to share it with his friends, family, neighbors and whatever complete strangers (like me) might happen to drop by.  It’s an act of faith, devotion and sacrifice to put that much time, energy and care into a meal that hungry visitors will scarf down in a few minutes.  So, thanks for the food and fellowship Billy, and I hope I get to return the favor one of these days.

Ask BBQ Jew: Finding a Caterer

Today’s post is the first in what will be an occasional series that presents actual questions from actual BBQJew.com readers.  Today, as always, we will protect the reader’s identity unless the reader decides to self-disclose it him/herself.  Without further ado, to the e-mailbag we go…

Dear BBQ Jew,
Love the blog/website. I recently moved back to NC in the Durham/Hillsborough area. I made my first trip/pilgramage to Allen and Son tonight. Yum!  Here’s the problem. All of my neighbors are Yankees. They keep using barbecue as a verb. I want to hire someone who knows what they are doing to come cook a pig in our cul-de-sac and show them what dining heaven is all about. Know of any good adherents to the Gospel of Vinegar based BBQ who would be willing to make my block party the shizzle?
-Hungry in Hillsborough

Dear Hungry in Hillsborough,

Forshizzle, I’m happy to offer some advice.  But first I want to commend you for seeking to convert your Yankee neighbors to our pork-based religion.  With a little persistence on your part, along with the sacrificial offering of a slow-cooked pig, I have no doubt these Yankees will soon see the light. 

My first suggestion is to talk to your favorite local barbecue joint and see if they cater.  Most do.  However, since it Continue reading

High on the (Whole) Hog

I went to my first pig pickin’ this weekend and…¡Wow!

The Pig Kahuna

The Pig Kahuna

Growing up in Massachusetts, the only thing I can compare it to is a clam bake, which, oddly enough, usually centers around lobster. After having access to a whole hog on a smoker, I have a newfound appreciation for a) how difficult it is to get at lobster meat and b) just how much meat is on a pig.

The event, held in Durham’s Duke Park neighborhood, was the result of a backyard conversation between two neighbors and a ‘why not?’ attitude. As in, why not mix a 165 pound hog, salt and pepper, 10 hours over the (cough) gas cooker and a little dip? The result was a glorious bit of ‘cue-aided community building.  (Thanks, Doug!)

While Doug and his neighbor Jeff did use a gas cooker,  at least they had a pile of wood nearby to please the eye. Plus, they woke up at 5 a.m. to get things started, earning some nice legitimacy points.

some prime picked pork

some prime picked pork

While this should have been obvious to me beforehand, the best part of the evening was actually pickin‘ pieces from the smoker. Finding that perfectly crusty piece (like this little gem to the left) was an experience I’d love to repeat (and did quite a few times on Saturday).

True to my moniker, I enjoyed a rarity in NC barbecue–a rib. And ever the breadaholic since Passover’s end, I crafted a sandwich with hand-picked morsels. That’s it below, moments before departing this world. And, yes, that is a nice piece of “outside brown.”

If I have to split hairs, I thought the barbecue could have been chopped finer. But I can certainly imagine the cleaver guys getting pork elbow after working their way through most of that hog.

The kicker of the whole thing was meeting a nice Jewish family who’d moved to Carolina from Israel. Alas, being Orthodox, they didn’t partake of the pork. The poor souls. But, as a devout BBQ Jew,  I could understand their devotion. And we met in the middle at a keg of nice, local beer.

The grand sandwich

The grand sandwich