Barbecue Bros Book Club: The One True Barbecue by Rien Fertel

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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.

IMG_8196A 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.

Monk

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Friday Find: Rien Fertel on his “feud” with Ed Mitchell

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.

Linkdown: 11/9/16

– 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

– A list of Charlotte barbecue joints from Charlotte’s Got A Lot; I think ours is  a little more comprehensive

– Grant visits Smokin’ J’s BBQ, another no-frills joint in Knoxville

– The When Pigs Fly BBQ Festival is this weekend in Fayetteville and features a whole hog competition

– Summerville, SC is getting a new whole hog barbecue joint in the second location of Swig & Swine

– Elliott Moss is going on a book tour for Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book of Smoke: Wood-Smoked Meat, Sides and More, and is making a stop in Charleston

– Buxton Hall gets a nice write up in this month’s Our State Magazine

Linkdown: 10/12/16

– Hurricane Matthew causes some supply chain issues for the whole hog barbecue at Buxton Hall Barbecue

– Once again, the train will stop in Lexington for The Barbecue Festival on October 22

– Grant’s latest barbecue stops: Dead End BBQ in Knoxville and The Hickory Pit in Chattanooga

– Thrillist on John Lewis: This Man Spent 10 Years Perfecting America’s Best Brisket

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.

– Lewis Barbecue makes the list of Eater’s Heat Map for Charleston for October

– Next year’s Cuegrass will be April 5 in front of The Pit

– Speaking of downtown Raleigh, will they be getting more Ed Mitchell soon?

Linkdown: 6/22/16

– In response to this infamous Eater post last week, Robert Moss reluctantly defends brisket as “barbecue”

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?

– Part 2 of the I-26 guide to SC barbecue

– As part of the deluge of content from Eater’s Barbecue Week, here’s a guide to regional barbecue sauces

– A coarse chopped tray from Lexington #1 and a large whole hog tray from Skylight Inn makes Eater’s 23 Essential Barbecue Dishes in America

– More from Eater: Grady’s Bar-B-Q in Dudley from contributor Robert Donovan

– Available for pre-order now

– The winners from the Blue Ridge Barbecue and Music Festival from earlier in June

– No new information here, but more confirmation about Ed Mitchell’s new barbecue venture in Raleigh’s Brier Creek neighborhood as well as his food truck

– As he moves from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Grant weighs in on the greatness of Georgia barbecue

Linkdown: 6/15/16

– Is Athens, GA one of the great barbecue capitals in the US? Grant sure thinks so

– Daniel Vaughn heads back to Ohio in search of “Cleveland-style” barbecue

– Speaking of which, Robert Moss recently traveled down to Miami (tough job) in search of South Florida-style barbecue

Congrats to Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro for winning 10Best’s Best BBQ Pork Sandwich in NC contest (B’s Barbecue in Greenville took the runner up spot); also thanks to 10Best for allowing us to masquerade as experts for a few weeks

– Destination BBQ’s latest roadtrip covers the first 100 exits of I-26

– Charlotte Business Journal has an interview with Amanda and Paul from EDIA Maps, who you may remember created maps for NC barbecue as well as beer

– Relevant for the newly relocated Speedy: 18 Must-Try OTP Barbecue Spots in Atlanta

Get to know your regional styles of barbecue, according to JC Reid of the Houston Chronicle, though I might nitpick that Lexington-style barbecue is what NC is best known for; my experience has been most folks know about eastern-style whole hog more

– CAUTION, HOT TAKES ABOUND: Although, according to this, anything from a cow shouldn’t be called “barbecue”

– Where to find barbecue in 21 Eater cities

– Ed Mitchell’s upcoming barbecue restaurant (winter 2016) and food truck (!) has a new website

 

Linkdown: 6/8/16

– Destination BBQ has put together a list of barbecue joints along the I-95 corridor in South Carolina

– Where to find barbecue in Cabarrus County (just north of Charlotte), including Barbecue Bros fave The Smoke Pit (our review here)

– For a short time last week, there was a Facebook page for Ed Mitchell’s Que at Brier Creek but it has since been taken down

– Grant’s latest stops: Owen’s Bar-B-Que in Tallapoosa and Adams Bar-B-Q in Cartersville

– Eater’s Complete Guide to the 2016 NY Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

– The Smoking Ho visits FullHouse BBQ in Georgetown, TX

– The Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival is this weekend in Tryon

– Morris Barbeque in Hookerton is 85 years young

 

Linkdown: 5/18/16

– Per Raleigh Eats, Ed Mitchell’s Que is returning, this time to the Brier Creek neighborhood in Raleigh

– Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland is one of 6 Farm-to-Table Restaurants in Eastern NC to Try This Summer

Matthew and Jessica work with farms in their area and around the state to source the best and freshest seasonal ingredients for their businesses. Matthew works with a young farmer named Caleb Johnson, a graduate of North Carolina State University, and his farm: AJ Family Farms. He will check in with Caleb regularly to see what’s in season, and come up with dishes based on the weather. “I buy whatever he’s got,” Matthew says of Caleb’s farm. “Last week he had beautiful green tomatoes, so we did a corn and green tomato succotash over grits. That’s kind of my approach.”

– John Shelton Reed thinks NC needs a new holiday commemorating the Wilmington Barbecue of 1766

– Mac’s Speed Shop in Charlotte may be expanding its original South End location

– Brisket +Tacos = Crazy Delicious

An excerpt from Rien Fertel’s new book “The One True Barbecue” on Ricky Scott

– Speaking of Fertel’s new book, Rodney Scott is bringing his whole hog to Charleston’s Butcher & Bee for a book signing

– However, not all reactions to “The One True Barbecue” have been positive; Ed Mitchell and Wilber Shirley each took exception to how there were portrayed negatively in the book but not interviewed for it

– Buxton Hall Barbecue is throwing a 5 course dinner with whiskey, beer, and barbecue:

Linkdown: 5/5/16

– Interesting from Anthony Bourdain, who had previously declared love for both Eastern NC and Kansas City barbecue

Where to find regional styles of barbecue in NYC, including North Carolina-style from Arrogant Swine

– Robert Moss on “early airport barbecue”

The period between 1930 and 1960 saw a great flourishing of barbecue enterprises throughout the South, as one resourceful cook after another threw up a canvas tent or wooden stand and started selling slow-smoked meat wherever they saw potential customers.

– Ed Mitchell is having a pig pickin’ for Raleigh Homeless next Thursday

– Here’s an example 3 day Lexington Barbecue itinerary

– Midwood Smokehouse once again lands on the Voters Choice for Best Barbecue in Charlotte

– Charlotte Magazine profiles the newly opened Seoul Food Meat Co.

Linkdown: 4/27/16

– NC State University is holding a barbecue camp in June

– Sam Jones and Ed Mitchell are once again part of The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

– Grant visits Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, AL – home of the white sauce and “perfectly fine, middle-of-the-pack barbecue”

– TMBBQ interviews Laura Loomis, the 28 year old female pitmaster of Two Bros BBQ in San Antonio

– A roundup of barbecue cookbooks out this spring

– Bullock’s Bar-B-Que in Durham will be closed for a few weeks after a fire

– The Barbecue Festival in Lexington is a food festival within driving distance from Charlotte that defines NC cuisine, according to Charlotte Five

– Speaking of Lexington, this blog considers it one of the 14 best places in the world for barbecue and we fully agree (although it mistakenly attributes Stamey’s in Greensboro to Lexington)

– Houston Chronicle BBQ writer JC Reid on the pitfalls of defining true ‘cue

Needless to say, a few pitmasters took umbrage with this definition and compliance method. Pitmaster Carey Bringle of the popular Peg Leg Porker barbecue restaurant in Nashville responded on his Facebook page: “I can assure you that (the True ‘Cue folks) are not experts. First off, they are writers, not pitmasters.”

– Potential “Pitmaster General”?