The last of the videos from Kevin Pang’s BBQ Road Trip ’10 (Keith Allen here, Wilber Shirley here), here’s a short conversation from Ed Mitchell back when he was still part of The Pit in Raleigh.
And while Wilber Shirley didn’t take Kevin’s bait on eastern vs Lexington-style, Ed Mitchell answers the question by claiming that smoking a whole hog is the “true heart of barbecue,” albeit after diplomatically saying he’s “never had bad barbecue.”
– Justin Brunson of Old Major in Denver has a BQ Grill that he uses for catering as well as for fun
When I arrived at Old Major, Brunson was already stoking the fire in his BQ Grill, a steel behemoth sporting two huge drawers for coals, four air vents, enough horizontal space to cook a 250-pound pig, and a wood storage rack in the back. “It’s pretty much just a big, metal oven,” says Brunson. “This is the same grill that Sam Jones [of Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, North Carolina] and Elliott Moss [of Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina] use for barbecue. They make a gas model, but that’s not real barbecue. It’s got to be all wood, all the time.”
“This is my hobby right now, cooking on this grill,” says Brunson. “With Red Bear about to open, it’s my stress relief.” It’s also about supporting local farmers and producers, and experimenting with the “flavor of Colorado.” Brunson’s goal: To use the grill for catering, special events, and to cook local pigs, lambs, and more for anyone who asks. (Seriously, if you call Old Major and ask for a whole-animal feast, Brunson will cook it for you.)
– Here’s the full menu for next month’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party including ribs from the newly awarded James Beard winner Rodney Scott and whole hog from Ed and Ryan Mitchell as well as Sam Jones
– For such a good docuseries, David Chang’s “Ugly Delicious” gets barbecue wrong
Garner Foods of North Carolina was seeking to augment their barbecue sauce line and introduced a red pepper Louisiana-style hot sauce in 1929, which they named Texas Pete, to capitalize on the popularity of cowboy movies at the time. The product is a Carolina staple. According to food author Robert Moss, at the legendary Skylight Inn Barbecue in Ayden, NC, “They douse the pork with vinegar and Texas Pete while it’s still being chopped.”
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.
A collection of profiles on whole hog pitmasters throughout the southeast, “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel is an enjoyable if not somewhat controversial read. In particular, Fertel ruffled feathers with his chapters on Wilber Shirley and Ed Mitchell. He portrayed the former’s restaurant as a joint with a racial division of labor between the front of the house and the back and the latter as a marketing gimmick in overalls that cooks hogs in a non-traditional manner (hot and fast rather than the traditional low and slow). However fair Fertel’s representation may or may not be (and he is but one man with his opinion), the fact that he spoke with neither for the purposes of this book only added more embers to the burn barrel.
Fertel ties the profiles together through narrative, following his path from New Orleans to the Carolinas and back, with even a stop in Bushwick to visit Arrogant Swine. Each chapter not only explores the pitmaster(s) themselves but in some cases the history of an entire town with Ayden, NC and its two joints Skylight Inn and Bum’s. He particularly favors Scott’s-Parker’s Barbecue in Lexington, TN, visiting with pitmaster Ricky Parker in the first chapter and then his sons after his death in the last chapter. In between, Fertel visits 12 other whole hog joints in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and the aforementioned Arrogant Swine in NY.
I enjoyed Fertel’s writing and found this to be a quick read that I devoured over just a few sittings. Fertel cut his teeth writing oral histories for The Southern Foodways Alliance, and his experience writing on southern food showed. A small complaint would be that the only color photographs are confined to a section at the center of the book – I would have loved to see them throughout as opposed to the smaller black and white ones within the chapters. In any case, I can’t recommend “The One True Barbecue” enough.
I recently finished the excellent “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel, where he travels the Carolinas and Tennessee and profiles the men, families, and towns behind whole hog barbecue. Part of the chapter “Will Success Spoil Rodney Scott?” covers Ed Mitchell and his previous two restaurants in Wilson and in Durham, though not in a very flattering light. Some of the controversy comes from the fact that Fertel didn’t actually interview Mitchell for the book and instead relied on his 2012 interview of the man plus additional research. Per the News & Observer:
He presents a rocky picture, and Mitchell comes across as an image-crafting marketing pro and a barbecue rogue who cooks his hogs hot and fast. Fertel compares the way Mitchell presents himself, with his bushy white beard and well-worn overalls, as the sort of hyper-Southern gimmick one would find in a Cracker Barrel dining room.
Here’s some footage taken by the excellent Gene Galin (who also does some great work for the Chatham Journal photographing NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke football) at a book reading at Flyleaf Book Store in Chapel Hill last year where he defends his portrayal of Mitchell and hopes he can speak with him at the then-upcoming Big Apple Barbecue last summer. No word if anything ever came of it.
– Ed Mitchell is no longer opening a stall at the upcoming Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh but the News Observer has more information on his food truck which can be booked for holiday events
Lewis figured out the exact thickness and material to insulate the walls to keep the heat in too. And because the long, round tanks and smooth edges on Lewis’ smokers are the perfect shape to keep heat and smoke circling consistently through, there’s no need to get up and move product around. Smoke stacks are rolled to a specific diameter. When I asked Lewis what that diameter was, he demurred. These specs are top secret.
Such manifestos are nothing new. Barbecue scribblers have been making inflammatory statements about one regional style or another for as long as we’ve had barbecue scribblers. These days, I imagine, they do wonders for web traffic, but do they do much for the larger cause of barbecue?