Porky’s Pulpit: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Barbecue

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember fallen military heroes who gave their lives trying to protect the American way of life (and to find great deals on new cars, household goods, and other manifestations of consumerism runk amok, ahem, the American way of life).  Yet despite the heroic efforts of generations of brave men and women, one of America’s proudest institutions is under attack.  Indeed, like so many great American traditions before it–sex, drugs and rock & roll, to name only a few–barbecue is continuously affronted by the nattering na(shish-ka)bobs of negativism.

Every week my email inbox is filled with anti-barbecue propaganda, ranging from basically benign barbs to maliciously malignant missives.  Among the attacks I’ve seen on the great American institution, in the past week alone, are:

-On the benign side, confidence-suppressing articles about dealing with problems like “improper flaming” and other possible afflictions of the grill.  Not since Viagra ads first hit the airwaves have America’s charcoal-wielding men had such cause for performance anxiety.

Articles about barbecue’s supposed role in the epidemic of obesity plaguing our nation’s collective midsection.

-News reports that imply barbecue may lead to incidents of violent crime and even natural disasters.

-Malignant stories discussing barbecue’s supposed link to, well, cancer; anyone want to learn about “7 Ways to Cancer-Proof Your Barbecue”?

-The burden placed on barbecue to solve America’s ongoing economic woes and rebuild its diplomatic ties at the highest levels.

-Common dangers, such as household fires, tenuously linked to barbecuing and played up for maximum dramatic effect on barbecue-friendly occasions like Memorial Day and Independence Day.  Even in BBQ strongholds like West Texas, the BBQ-baiting media have tracked down otherwise self-respecting firefighters who “are sending out a warning [that barbecue] might not be worth the risk.”  As current West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief, and possible Past-President of the West Texas Brussel Sprouts Defense League, Jimmy Ellis put it in the same article, “One spark and the whole city could go up like a keg of dynamite.”  Humph.

-Lest the above dynamite-level dangers not be enough, other alarmists warn of the risk of contracting trichinosis and other food-borne illnesses.  Luckily, in a rare act of bravery, the USDA recently released updated guidelines on cooking meat, and finally admitted that cooking pork to 145 degrees is sufficiently safe (as tenderloin lovers have known for decades).

As if the above affronts on America’s barbecue tradition were not enough, the Al Gore set has devoted a disproportionate amount of effort to pin the future collapse of the earth’s ecosystems on barbecue.  Indeed, it appears that barbecue is now THE grease-stained culprit of global warming. “Are barbecue grills destroying the planet?,” asks an article in the May 27th issue of The Week, just the most recent in a series of attempts to make backyard pit bosses feel as guilty as possible for their selfless act of smoking meat instead of gassing it or, lord forbid, torturing it in an electric oven.

Finally, the forces of evil have stepped up their efforts to challenge the most fundamental of American barbecue values: the near-biblical truth that barbecue is by definition meat.  Indeed, masochistic vegetarians across the country write morally bankrupt drivel like this piece that tries to nudge meat aside and claim a spot on the Weber for veggies (it is consoling that the folks in the picture that runs with the article look famine-stricken and sport forced smiles that quietly scream, “For God’s sake, let me trade this pink polo shirt for a slab of ribs”).

While vegetarians take pains to inflate their bloated self-worth, and to maintain their emaciated figures, by choking down Bulgur Veggie Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise and the like, I’m sticking up for the American way.  I’ll be out back on my flammable wood deck cooking up some carbon-heavy, cancer-inducing pork butt to serve with bacon-flavored greens and calorie-full hush puppies.  After all, it’s Memorial Day and I think that our fallen heroes would have it no other way.

Porky’s Pulpit: Rapture is a Good Plate of Barbecue

I am writing this post on Friday night in case rapture comes on Saturday as predicted. If you are reading this post on Monday when I scheduled it to run then there are three possible explanations: 1. the rapture did not happen and the prophets of doom were wrong, or at least off by a week or two (stay tuned); 2. you are a sinner and were Left Behind, yet still have access to a high speed Internet connection (poached from a believer, perhaps?); 3. you have been saved and the Big Man Upstairs has rewarded you with your own iPhone (reception is good in the clouds even for AT&T users).

As for me, as a BBQ Jew I am not sure how the lord will regard me on judgment day, but if I make it through unscathed then I think I’ll celebrate with a chopped plate of ‘cue.  Well, as long as there are still some pitmasters left to cook for me, since I expect they will be saved from this earth before the rest of us.

First Church of Barbecue

I have made many references on this blog about worshipping in the church of the divine swine, but I have never actually prayed at the Barbecue Church. One of these days I just might.  The town of Sanford is home to 250-plus year old Barbecue Presbyterian Church, located at 124 Barbecue Church Road. The church was founded by Scottish settlers in 1758 and originally spelled its name as “Barbeque.”  Barbecue Presbyterian Church is located adjacent to the tiny town (hamlet?) of, you guessed it, Barbecue, North Carolina. The town, in turn, is located near a creek named none other than… Barbecue Creek.  But why a creek named Barbecue?

According to an interesting online history of the church, “During the Revolutionary War, General Cornwallis and his troops camped on the creek near the church. It is told that as the soldiers watched the fog roll in one morning, one said it reminded him of smoke rising from the barbecue pits, thus the name Barbecue Creek; Barbecue Church was named because of her location so near the creek. However, noted historian, Malcolm Fowler, points out that there are land grants in early 1753 on record naming Barbecue Creek.”  Thus, it seems to remain a mystery exactly why this area first got the name Barbecue.

Porky’s Pulpit: An Affront to My Way of Life

If there were an award for the website that is most antithetical to BBQJew.com, this one might be the winner.  After all, what could be more in conflict with the values espoused by BBQJew.com than the Christian Vegetarian Association? 

According to their website, “The Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA) is an international, non-denominational ministry of believers dedicated to respectfully promoting healthy, Christ-centered and God-honoring living among Christians.”  Their mission is threefold:

  1. To support and encourage Christian vegetarians around the world.
  2. To share with non-vegetarian Christians how a vegetarian diet can be a powerful and faith-strengthening witness to Christ’s love, compassion, and peace.
  3. To show the world that plant-based diets represent good, responsible Christian stewardship for all God’s Creation.

Hmmm, these “Christians” sound more like devil worshippers to me.  Needless to say, BBQJew.com asks all of you real Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other true believers in monotheistic (or polytheistic, pagan or animistic, we’re not picky) religions who have faith in the power of pork to make a stand against the CVA.  We urge you to take to the streets and burn some tofu (Citrus Barbeque Tofu, if you want to hit them where it hurts) to protest the CVA’s evil mission.  But don’t stay out protesting too late at night, most good barbecue places close by 8 p.m. and we’d hate for you to miss dinner.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit at DFW

Lord, forgive me for I have sinned.  Consider this post a confession more than a review. 

I was flying from the east coast to the left coast and had a layover at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport.  As I walked from one gate to another, I spotted a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  “What a coincidence,” I thought, “to find BBQ right in front of me while traveling.”  (I found out later that DFW features, count ’em youself if you don’t believe me, three Dickey’s locations so spotting one may have been less coincidence and more inevitable.).  Since I knew that Dickey’s was founded in Dallas I decided to try it.  I figured I could more easily live with myself eating Dickey’s ‘cue at an airport in Texas than not far from my house in North Carolina.

Knowing that Dickey’s is from Texas and made its name there, I ordered the sliced brisket sandwich.  It was on the dry side and a bit lacking in flavor but it was okay, especially for airport fare.  Heck, even mediocre ‘cue is better than most things.  Dickey’s menu also features links, turkey, ham, chicken and “Southern Pulled Pork,” among other dishes. 

I suppose I should try the pulled pork just to complain about it, but it just doesn’t seem right to do that in North Carolina, even though there are a couple of Dickey’s in NC and five more on the way.  Maybe next time I am travelling through DFW.  Until then, Lord, I’ll stick to local barbecue joints.

Porky’s Pulpit: Were There BBQ Joints in Nazareth?

Thank you to Jay and Katherine, a husband-and-wife team who sent me the below picture of a fascinating tapestry.  According to Katherine, “The tapestry hangs in the Gallery of Tapestries in the Vatican Museum and is a picture of the Last Supper.  I think it was woven in the 1600s.”  Why is this artwork of particular interest, other than the obvious fact that it is Holy Week?  Well, this particular depiction of the Last Supper appears to feature a serving platter full of pig! 

Since I’ve never before seen a pig-positive depiction of the Last Supper, I’m curious to hear from any religious scholars who can help answer these questions: Are those really pigs featured on the platter?  And, if so, is it at all possible that swine might have been on the menu at the Last Supper given the number of, you know, Jews present?  Also, what might the pigs’ symbolic meaning, if any, be in this tapestry? 

Given Jesus was a Jew, one would expect he kept kosher.  Then again Jesus, you may have heard, was no ordinary Jew.  According to that holiest of holy website WikiAnswers, which is a decidely unscholarly source of information, there is some debate about whether Jesus indulged in treyf food like swine.  The evidence that Jesus might have eaten pork largely comes from him saying, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11).  Whether this one passage can be interpreted to mean it is okay to eat pork and other “unclean” foods is not clear.  Anyone out there care to enlighten me? 

Last Supper tapestry, courtesy of Jay and Katherine Wilkerson

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.