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  This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union, and it is being withdrawn from the marketplace.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.

Imminent Disaster in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve paid any attention to the news lately, you are aware that a major crisis looms for our nation.  Indeed, I witnessed the crisis in person when visiting Washington, D.C. recently.  In addition to the proliferation of BBQ sub sandwiches in and around our nation’s capital, our federal government faces an imminent disaster of its own creation.

Dinosaur meat?

Yes, I am referring to the faux ‘cue that has made its way into the very heart of our nation’s capital.  A trip to the Atrium Cafe* at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History revealed a menu with a few barbecue choices, including “Carolina style pulled pork.” At a steep $12.95 for a plate with two sides, I nearly skipped this meal but my thirst for knowledge hunger for pork prevailed.

While the museum’s large collection of prehistoric fossils and other remnants of America’s natural history may be authentic, the Carolina style barbecue is not.  Indeed, if I curated a barbecue museum I wouldn’t let the soggy, slow cooker-style swine pictured at left into my building, let alone feature it in my cafeteria.  From the taste (no smoke and a half-hearted imitation of NC sauce) to the texture (pulled rather than chopped, as well as soggy), the Atrium Cafe’s barbecue is not fit for inclusion in a hallowed Smithsonian institution.

I dare say that pigs are a more relevant part of America’s natural history than dinosaur bones and other dusty old relics.  I wish our nation’s leaders would take action to force the Museum of Natural History to address the current cafeteria situation before it becomes a crisis. I am setting an August 2nd deadline for Congress to take action.  If not, I will refuse to eat pork at a federal museum until true Carolina barbecue is served.  Better yet, each federally funded cafeteria should serve both Eastern- and Lexington-style barbecue.  This would be a true “balanced solution” to the present problem.  Please contact your elected officials and urge them to take action.

*Editor’s note: We have heard reports that the Atrium Cafe will soon be renamed the Debt Ceiling and will have its hours cut dramatically.

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

Foodie: A Short, Dark Comedy Horror Film

As North Carolina’s most powerful Jewish barbecue blogger, I have a large bully pulpit (and you know what they say about guys with large bully pulpits).  From time to time I use that power to try and help make the world a better place.  Today is not one of those times.

Instead, I am using my bully (swiney?) pulpit to plug a new film being produced by a couple of buddies of mine.  Eric “Raw BBQ” Calhoun and the Rev. Eryk Pruitt have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film, Foodie, which they describe as follows:

“Foodie” is a short, dark comedy horror film about, well, foodies.  Our hero, an aspiring restauranteur, is invited to an exclusive gourmet dinner party finds much more on the menu than he bargained for…

Intrigued?  Check out a short video preview at this link on Kickstarter or visit the project website. Aside from having the opportunity to say you helped kickstart a film being made by two guys named Eric/Eryk who spell their name wildly differently, your donation will get the project off the ground and get you in line for rewards like DVDs of the film, dinner from a terrific Durham chef, and more.  Plus, both Eric and Eryk are barbecue enthusiasts and I’m sure they’d appreciate some help from their barbecue brethren.

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: There Oughta Be a Law

I will vote for any candidate for national office who proposes a law banning use of the word “barbecue” in contexts like this:

Merry Christmas to All and to All Some Good Meat

I have no idea where this photo originated, but it is certainly impressive. Merry Christmas everyone, including those of you who have way too much time on your hands (meat nativity scene creators and barbecue bloggers, for instance).

Glenn’s BBQ Goes the Way of Kannapolis

I recently learned of yet another sad story about an old time BBQ joint closing its doors for the last time.  This time it is the 50-year old Glenn’s BBQ of Kannapolis, a place I never dined at but wish I had.  A few days before Glenn’s went out of business, the Salisbury Post offered up a beautifully written eulogy-of-sorts.  See the full article here

The Post story is well worth reading for its rich description of Glenn’s and its commentary on the area’s economy. As we all know, it’s been a particularly rough couple of years for the nation’s economy.  Yet places like Kannapolis, ravaged by plant closings and jobs moving overseas back when the nation’s economy was “strong”, were already in bad shape before the recession set in. As Glenn’s owner Ken Clanton succinctly puts it: “There’s no place for people to work. The future of Kannapolis doesn’t look bright.” 

There are a lot of places like Kannapolis in North Carolina and across the country.  If you’re like me and it saddens you to see local businesses like Glenn’s shut down, and to see folks out of work, please do your part by spending your dining dollars on local restaurants.

Porky’s Pulpit: Dickey’s Invasion Continues, Call the National Guard

Below is a press release from that ever so dangerously un-North Carolina barbecue chain, Dickey’s. Read it and weep… and then rush out to support your favorite local BBQ joint (even if it happens to be a Smithfield’s!)

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Dickey’s Barbecue Trifecta Takes on North Carolina

The Barbecue Chain Will Hold Three Consecutive Grand Openings in December

Raleigh, NC, November 29, 2010 –(PR.com)– Three of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s newest locations in North Carolina will hold Grand Opening events three days in a row. The barbecues Trifecta include locations in Raleigh, Southern Pines, and Winston-Salem. The events will kick off each day at 11 a.m. where patrons can purchase $1 big barbecue sandwiches and also enter to win free barbecue for a year, according to officials.

The Raleigh location will hold their grand opening on December 1st. This Dickey’s is located at 170 East Davie Street. Continue reading

Hanukkah Coming Soon: Still Time to Buy a Pork Cookbook

Fellow BBQ Jews, need I remind you that Hanukkah comes early in the year 5771? (That’s 2010 for you genteel gentile readers.)  Indeed, the Jewish Festival of Lights begins less than one month from today, as you can likely tell from all the Hanukkah tunes polluting the radio (my local station has “Latkes Roasting on an Open Fire” in predictably heavy rotation).  Though time is slipping away, rest assured it’s not too late to find the perfect Hanukkah gift for the ones you love. 

In case this website sells out of BBQ Jew Merch again, as it has in many past Hanukkah shopping seasons, then consider buying The White Book instead.  As implied by the awkward title (awkward at least for those of us in America, where “white” suggests a mayonnaise-loving racial group more so than a type of meat), The White Book is a pork cookbook.  It was written for Israeli Jews by an Israeli Jew.  Former cardiologist, current author and likely future hate mail recipient Dr. Eli Landau is a not too serious man after my own heart (as The New York Times article puts it, “ANY author has to deal with bad reviews, but how about the wrath of God?”).  He waxes poetic about the other white meat, telling the Times, “Pork meat is to a cook like canvas to a painter.”  He also goes on record suggesting that Israeli Jews will abandon their pork-scorning behavior in a couple of decades; a bold assertion for a people awash in thousands of years of tradition and religious teachings but time will tell. 

Alas, the Mediterranean focus of Landau’s cookbook seems to exclude North Carolina style barbecue pork from the list of recipes, but no matter.  Assuming The White Book manages to break down the thousands of years old wall of anti-pork (and pro-boiled chicken) sentiment among my Jewish brethren then no doubt whole hog barbecue will soon sweep the Promised Land quicker than Moses parted the Red Sea.  Until then, at least you’ll have a nice cookbook to get you through the holiday season if you get sick of latkes.