Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Sam Jones: Whole Hog BBQ” by Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ arrived on the same day as several other notable barbecue books – Matthew Register’s Southern Smoke, Ed Randolph’s Smoked, and Myron Mixon’s BBQ&A with Myron Mixon – but had to be the most anticipated for a large portion of the barbecue crowd due to Sam Jones as well as the involvement of Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn. That was certainly the case for me, and the book delivered in spades.

This book is more than a typical cookbook, with chapters covering the history of his family and Skylight Inn, the story of starting Sam Jones BBQ with his best friend and business partner Michael Letchworth, and the resurrection of a family pit that had been sitting undiscovered for 70+ years. I don’t know how much Jones had written before or how much coaching or editing he got from Daniel Vaughn, but his writing is personal and engaging, particularly for a first-time author.

The other chapter covers in exhaustive detail how to host a whole hog party. In fact, I used it as my guide for the whole hog party Speedy and I hosted last month. In 40 or so pages, it walks the reader step-by-step through the process, from how much wood you need to how to construct the burn barrel and the cinder block pit to a detailed timeline of smoking the whole hog. For any first timer smoking a whole hog, I would point them to this book (and maybe our blog post). It gives you all you need.

Outside of the whole hog chapter, there are several recipes for eastern North Carolina dishes, sides, and desserts.

Whole Hog BBQ is full of beautiful photography and wonderfully personal writing from Sam Jones. It is a must-read not only for barbecue books released on May 7, but for any barbecue book released ever.

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “The Prophets of Smoked Meat” by Daniel Vaughn

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Monk: Before Daniel Vaughn was BBQ Editor of Texas Monthly (but not before he was the BBQ Snob), he took a series of long range barbecue roadtrips across Texas spiraling out from his homebase of Dallas. Those trips, along with some profiles of notable pitmasters, form the narrative structure of this book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, which was released in 2013 on Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint.

Vaughn had been writing on his old Blogspot blog, Full Custom Gospel BBQ, going back to 2008 so was well versed in many of the great and not-so-great joints across Texas. Oddly enough, for a book that celebrates the best in Texas barbecue, for several long stretches of this book (particularly the Panhandle and East Texas trips) Vaughn experienced some quite severe barbecue droughts accompanied by photographer and friend Nicholas McWhirter and a rotating cast of friends and family. Based on this book alone, one might even come away with the impression that outside of a few truly transcendent joints (Snow’s, Franklin Barbecue, Louie Mueller, etc), there’s quite a lot of bad or mediocre barbecue in Texas. I can’t speak from personal experience, but it was interesting to this Texas barbecue novice nonetheless.

Vaughn’s writing has improved from years of full-time barbecue writing but his style here is informal and easy to read – about what you’d expect from a blogger-turned-author. I get a bit of a Hunter S. Thompson vibe in reading Vaughn’s pursuit of vices – in this case the Texas trinity – brisket, sausage, and pork ribs – as well as alcohol (but definitely not mescaline).

In addition to the barbecue roadtrips, there are 20 or so short profiles with recipes of notable pitmasters such as Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ, Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller, Roy Perez of Kreuz Market, Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ, and of course Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue.

An unexpected (for me, anyways) side effect of the book was the descriptions of the vast landscape and terrain of Texas, from the vastness of western plains to the Llano Estacado to the Hill Country to the bayou of east Texas. My Texas experience is limited primarily to the big cities, but this makes me want to spend a week driving in the remote areas of Texas.

The Prophets of Smoked Meat is essential reading for anyone interested in barbecue in 2019, not only because of Vaughn’s position as a BBQ Editor (perhaps still the only such full-time position in the US) but because of the dominance of Texas in American barbecue. As a NC barbecue fanboy, similar to how I felt after reading “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown,” there needs to be one of these books for NC barbecue. Again, I’d happily volunteer my services for such a gig.

Available anywhere you buy books. Official description:

The debut title in the Anthony Bourdain Books line, The Prophets of Smoked Meat by “Barbecue Snob” Daniel Vaughn, author of the enormously popular blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ, is a rollicking journey through the heart of Texas Barbecue.

From brisket to ribs, beef to pork, mesquite to oak, this fully illustrated, comprehensive guide to Texas barbecue includes pit masters’ recipes, tales of the road—from country meat markets to roadside stands, sumptuous photography, and a panoramic look at the Lone Star State, where smoked meat is sacred.

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” by Wyatt McSpadden

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Texas photographer Wyatt McSpadden released a barbecue photo book just 9 years before this book, in 2009. So why a new book now? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, a lot has happened in the world of barbecue in the past 10 years, particularly in Texas. In 2013, Texas Monthly hired a full-time barbecue editor in Daniel Vaughn (who lends McSpadden an essay for this book). Also, a little joint opened up in Austin just months after that first book’s release, and it changed everything. You may have heard of it – Franklin Barbecue. So yeah, there is quite a bit more ground to cover.

Now I haven’t yet read the first book (though its now at the top of my shortlist of barbecue books), but I get the impression that its very similar in nature. In “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown,” Wyatt’s fantastic photography is front and center, of course and beautifully laid out by his wife Nancy McMillan.

Wyatt does write about a handful of joints that mean a great deal to him, from joints that remind him of the joints he went to growing up in Amarillo (like Prause Meat Market in xxx) to legendary places where he tasted his first transcendent bites of barbecue (Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor).

Wyatt’s passion is evident in those words as well as his gorgeous photography. He was there to document the rise of Aaron Franklin and Franklin Barbecue (Franklin provides the foreword, pictured above) and more than most, has criss-crossed the state for nearly 30 years, documenting every weathered nook and smoke-encrusted cranny.
“Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” is an essential barbecue book to add to your collection. I will say, North Carolina barbecue needs it’s own iteration of this book, and what a dream job that would be.

Available wherever you buy books. Official description:

In Texas BBQ, Wyatt McSpadden immortalized the barbecue joints of rural Texas in richly authentic photographs that made the people and places in his images appear as timeless as barbecue itself. The book found a wide, appreciative audience as barbecue surged to national popularity with the success of young urban pitmasters such as Austin’s Aaron Franklin, whose Franklin Barbecue has become the most-talked-about BBQ joint on the planet. Succulent, wood-smoked “old school” barbecue is now as easy to find in Dallas as in DeSoto, in Houston as in Hallettsville. In Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown, Wyatt McSpadden pays homage to this new urban barbecue scene, as well as to top-rated country joints, such as Snow’s in Lexington, that were under the radar or off the map when Texas BBQwas published.

Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown presents crave-inducing images of both the new—and the old—barbecue universe in almost every corner of the state, featuring some two dozen joints not included in the first book. In addition to Franklin and Snow’s, which have both occupied the top spot in Texas Monthly’s barbecue ratings, McSpadden portrays urban joints such as Dallas’s Pecan Lodge and Cattleack Barbecue and small-town favorites such as Whup’s Boomerang Bar-B-Que in Marlin. Accompanying his images are barbecue reflections by James Beard Award–winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin and Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. Their words and McSpadden’s photographs underscore how much has changed—and how much remains the same—since Texas BBQrevealed just how much good, old-fashioned ’cue there is in Texas.

Barbecue Bros Book Club: Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm by Bob Garner

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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Monk: Bob Garner’s latest book, published in 2014, isn’t strictly a barbecue book per se. Instead it focuses on various favorite foods and drinks of North Carolina, though naturally barbecue is featured being that it is the state’s most popular food.

The barbecue chapter of the book covers the basics in terms of the history of barbecue in the state and how the two dominant styles of barbecue came to be. Where it does cover some new territory compared with previous barbecue books from Garner is the introduction of different styles of smokers into NC, comparing offset and rotisserie smokers imported from the midwest and Texas to the traditional NC brick barbecue pits with its direct heat method. Instead of an exhaustive list of all barbecue restaurants (which Garner previously covered in his Big Book of Barbecue), he instead showcases just four restaurants – one from the east (Skylight Inn), one from the piedmont (Lexington Barbecue), a new-style joint that serves beer while still smoking over wood (Hillsborough BBQ Company), and a regional chain (Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ).

The book does contain recipes as well, and I particularly like that the recipe for “charcoal cooked pulled pork” is for a Lexington-style barbecue recipe smoked on a Weber charcoal grill.

The subsequent chapters of the book cover foods often eaten with barbecue like brunswick stew and collards as well as desserts such as banana pudding and peach cobbler. This is smartly done by Garner.

As for other barbecue-related items, the book also has later chapters on barbecue sauces found in stores, Texas Pete hot sauce, as well as soft drinks created in NC. Longtime readers and followers will note how much I love Cheerwine or Sun Drop with barbecue, and of course the history of those are featured.

“Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm” lovingly explores the food and drinks of North Carolina in a way that only a native North Carolinian can. It is very much a Bob Garner book – and that’s a very good thing.

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