The co-founder of True Cue joins the Kevin’s BBQ Joints podcast to give a “city guide” for the entire state of NC.
John Shelton Reed, sociologist and essayist, author or editor of twenty books, most of them dealing with the contemporary American South, guides us through North Carolina for BBQ spots in the major cities as well as way off the beaten path for incredible finds.
Southerners have long nurtured a debate over whether Carolina-style pork or Texas-style brisket is the true king. Charleston has decided you can have it both ways. On Upper King Street, one year ago, Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ, a brick temple to the low, slow, whole-hog style that put South Carolina barbecue on the map. Less than half a mile away, at Lewis Barbecue, you can sit in a gravel courtyard under the shade of a live oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Texas-style.
– John Shelton Reed has a guest post at Barbecue Bible to remind folks about True ‘Cue
– Sad news as Midwood Smokeshack has closed in Matthews. However, there is some good news in that the employees will keep their jobs at other Midwood Smokehouse locations and FS Food Groupd will be looking to build a full service Midwood Smokehouse in the Matthews area at some point.
– D.G. Martin’s list of last minute book gifts includes one of my all-time favorite barbecue books which was just re-issued on paperback, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney
– Charlotte Agenda: “Noble Smoke could give Charlotte a true barbecue flagship”
In honor of our Book Club post on John Shelton Reed’s Barbecue cookbook earlier this week, here’s a link to a podcast interview of the man from WUNC’s “The State of Things” podcast recorded last year. The barbecue-specific portion begins at 25:47.
John Shelton Reed did not think of himself as a southerner until his classmates at MIT pointed it out.
The Tennessee native was going to school in the northeast just as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s took off. It was the beginning of a career dedicated to the study of southern culture.
He came to it as a kind of outsider in his own home but quickly returned to his roots, helped create the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, and has become one of the preeminent voices on the “correct” way to make North Carolina barbecue.
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: The Savor the South cookbook series from the University of North Carolina Press covers one “beloved food or tradition” of the South at a time (like bourbon or pecans – those books are written by Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis). One of the latest in the series from 2016 is “Barbecue” from John Shelton Reed, who along with his wife wrote one of my favorite barbecue books ever, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” back in 2008.
Reed acknowledges that the world doesn’t necessarily need another barbecue cookbook – heck, he himself already owns a couple dozen – which is why I appreciate that he attempts to make this particular cookbook more educational than the average one. In his usual dry humor tone, Reed gives a baseline of the history of southern barbecue in the Introduction chapter before exploring the variations in meats and sauces in the subsequent chapters. Finally, he moves on to sides and ultimately desserts by the end of the book.
I may or may not get around to the trying some of the recipes, but the history and education is what really makes “Barbecue” a good read.
But Reed and Levine also educate us about the connection between politics and barbecue. Their search for such connections took them all the way back to late February of 1766 when “the Royal Governor of North Carolina, William Tryon, attempted to win the New Hanover militia’s good will by treating them to a barbecue. He did not succeed: citizens of Wilmington threw the barbecued ox in the river and poured out the beer. (This was not an early expression of North Carolinians’ preference for pork; they were upset about the Stamp Act.)”
Reed and Levine explain that this “expression” of discontent with British authority came seven years before “the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when some rowdy New Englanders threw boxes of tea in Boston harbor to protest a British tax.”
Here’s some gift ideas for the barbecue lover in your life. The bolded items are the ones I can personally recommend. Feel free to add or suggest any other gift ideas in the comments below and I’ll update the post through the holidays.
Now, let’s step aside from talking about this restaurant and the trip and let’s look at the big picture. Four months in Tennessee and the barbecue that I’ve found has been a few pretty good places, a bunch of so-so ones, and a handful of unspeakable disappointments. Nine hours in Georgia and one, two, three, that’s a hat trick, three barbecue meals better than any that I’ve had since moving. Now, next week, I’ll tell you about a very good place we’ve found in Chattanooga, by far my favorite in the city. But as much as I enjoyed it, it is still not anywhere close to being as good as Cleve Edmunds, or Heavy’s, or B’s. My search continues.
The latest, he told me the other day, was Hillary Clinton’s choice of a barbecue stop in Charlotte at the end of the presidential campaign. She and President Obama ate at the Midwood Smokehouse. It has a varied and upscale menu, but it is not a traditional barbecue eatery. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was buying one of those $3.50 barbecue sandwiches at Stamey’s in Greensboro.
“Maybe Clinton’s choice sold in Charlotte,” Reed said, “but the rest of the state was thinking Drumpf was eating at a real North Carolina barbecue stop, a big reason he won and she lost.
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.”