Monk: Pitt County, NC is home to several classic NC barbecue joints including B’s Barbecue in Greenville as well as Skylight Inn and Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden plus newer ones like Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville. Throw a few breweries in the mix and baby, you got a stew goin’. NC Weekend checked it out 2 years ago when it started and reported back.
Description: Lovers of barbecue and beer can have a field day in Pitt County where you can follow a brew and ‘cue trail, get your tickets stamped, and have a whole lot of fun.
Monk: Last month, as part of Black History Month Adrian Miller sat down with Flatland, the digital platform for Kansas City PBS, to discuss barbecue’s hidden history not only with black people but also the Native Americans before that. Being a Kansas City-based outlet, the focus is on barbecue of that area, including pioneer Henry Perry as well as Arthur Bryant and Ollie Gates but comes with a warning against the signs of potential erasure of black contributions to barbecue much like has been done with Native Americans and their early contributions to barbecue. A great primer for Miller’s forthcoming book Black Smoke, out next month.
Description: Adrian Miller is on a mission. He wants to ensure the whole story of barbecue is told.
Miller recently sat down with Flatland to discuss a few key findings from his book: “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue.”
Miller contends the barbecue story, in large part, is one of cultural appropriation. He notes, for example, that Native Americans were the first to barbecue. Enslaved Black people then became pre-eminent. Only later did white people come to dominate the barbecue narrative.
Starting in Lenoir County, NC and making stops elsewhere in North Carolina as well as Tennessee, Florida, and Texas, Chef Vivian Howard seeks to expand her barbecue palette beyond eastern North Carolina whole hog and barbecued chicken.
I do love that while Chef Howard visits her good friend Sam Jones at Skylight Inn, she highlights the side of barbecue not often seen in barbecue media from turkey barbecue that’s becoming increasingly popular in African American communities to female pitmasters in a male dominated field to smoked fish to restaurants in Texas that celebrate the fusion of barbecue from different cultures.
At the very least, be sure to luxuriate in the Florida section where Chef Howard attends a “Cracker barbecue” (21:20) – don’t worry, they explain the name – as well as a smoked mullet competition (25:14).
Southerners are particular about the way they cook and eat barbecue. No dish says eastern North Carolina more than the region’s signature whole hog barbecue; however, the art of cooking meat over fire and smoke is one shared by all cultures. On a tour of eastern North Carolina barbecue joints, Vivian is reminded of traditions that define the area’s version of pork barbecue while being introduced to new techniques.
Flipping what she already knows about ‘cue, Vivian sets out to uncover buried barbecue histories and to learn about the unexpected ways that different types of meat are smoked, pit-cooked, wood-fired and eaten. We learn that barbecue—both the food and the verb— cannot be pigeonholed into one definition. On her journey starting from the whole-hog pits in her figurative backyard, Vivian learns the history of Black barbecue entrepreneurship, from the North Carolina families who started turkey barbecue to the women firing up pits in Brownsville and Memphis, Tennessee.
Curious about other iterations, Vivian travels to the west coast of Florida, where a storied “Cracker” history at a smoked mullet festival drastically changes her perspective on Southern ‘cue. She then heads further south to Texas, where robust barbecue techniques steeped in tradition are being morphed by longtime Texas families doing what they know best. This includes a pair of sisters in the small southern Texas town of San Diego adding a Tejano touch to their barbecue joint menu, and two Japanese-Texan brothers with a smokehouse that pairs brisket and bento boxes.