Also known as the other feud from Fertel’s book “The One True Barbecue” (our take here). In the chapter on Wilber’s Barbecue in the book, Wilber happened to be off work for his 83rd birthday (an extremely rare occurrence) so Fertel ends up spending his time with one of the pitmasters Keith Ward who goes by the name of “Pop”. During his time with Pop, Fertel notes a division of race between the white-owned restaurant and its white front of the house staff and the pitmasters and kitchen who tend black. This has been disputed by Wilber himself. In any case, Fertel speaks to his approach to writing the book at this appearance at Flyleaf Book Store in Chapel Hill last year as well as the supposed feud with Wilber Shirley.
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.
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.
See our 2015 gift guide here
See our 2014 gift guide here
See our 2013 gift guide here
- Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book of Smoke: Wood-Smoked Meats, Sides, and More by Elliott Moss (new)
- Barbecue: a Savor the South cookbook by John Shelton Reed (new)
- The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook Whole Hog by Rien Fertel (new)
- North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries by D.G. Martin (new)
- The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt
- Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed
- Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue: North Carolina’s Favorite Food by Bob Garner
- The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: From Manteo to Murphy by Jim Early
- Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey by Robb Walsh
- Barbecue: The History of an American Institution by Robert Moss
- Carolina ‘Cue by Our State Magazine (or directly from Our State)
- The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue by Daniel Vaughn
- Peace, Love, & Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue by Mike Mills
- Barbecue Lover’s the Carolinas: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions by Robert Moss
- Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin
- Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and Smoking by The Editors of Southern Living
- Foods that Make You Say Mmm-mmm by Bob Garner
“The One True Barbecue” author Rien Fertel and Picnic’s Wyatt Dickson stopped by WUNC’s The State of Things radio show last week to discuss Fertel’s book and all things whole hog barbecue. After listening to this 17 minute podcast, I realized that Wyatt Dickson and I went to elementary school in Fayetteville way back when. Small world.
– Another writeup on Rien Fertel’s latest book, The One True Barbecue, with the tagline “Get to Ayden before it’s too late”…now too late for what, I’m not quite sure
– Speaking of Ayden, this past weekend it became home to the Kings of Q BBQ Cook-off and Festival
– Three questions with The Improper Pig, who started a food truck just in time for the summer
– A very interesting read on how Daniel Vaughn helped Tuffy Stone’s Cool Smoke competition team lose at this month’s Memphis in May
– Vaughn also weighs in with an appreciation of The Salt Lick, which sometimes gets unfairly maligned as “overrated”
– The Wall Street Journal profiles Melissa Cookston, “the most decorated woman in competitive barbecue” (h/t)
– Grant’s latest Georgia barbecue stops: The Butt Hutt in Athens, Tucker’s Bar-B-Q in Macon, Hudson’s BBQ in Roberta, and Piggie Park in Thomaston
– Catching up with Robert Moss’ latest entries for The Daily South: a writeup on The One True Barbecue and the end of a Savannah BBQ legend; here’s an excerpt from the first linked article on whole hog:
Whether the whole hog tradition is dying out or evolving into a new form is left unsettled. By the end of the story, Chris Siler at Siler’s Old Time has switched to pork shoulders after it got too hard to procure whole hogs, and Ricky Parker is gone, dead from liver disease at only 51. At the same time, a new generation of cooks from other walks of life, like Tyson Ho at Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, NY, and Elliot Moss at Buxton Hall in Asheville, NC, have made the “journey into the madness of whole-hog fanaticism.”
– Always worth revisiting the basics
– We were fortunate enough to be considered “experts” (shh…don’t tell them) and submitted nominees for 10Best.com’s Best BBQ Pork Sandwich in NC contest. Voting ends June 6 at 12pm ET.
– Some coverage of the 10Best contest from Pitt County, Asheville, and Garland
– Creative Loafing profiles Seoul Food Meat Co.
– Over at Marie, Let’s Eat!, Grant visits the last remaining Old Hickory House, located in Tucker, GA, as well as Big Cove BB-Q in Owens Cross Roads, AL
– Whole-hog Carolina barbecue converts Louisiana-native Rien Fertel
Mr. Fertel locates the birthplace of whole-hog barbecue in eastern North Carolina. In aptly named Pitt County, he visits three whole-hog establishments. The agriculture-and-livestock-rich region, he says, is “a bastion, or pit, as it were, where the nation’s oldest vernacular barbecue tradition has been slowly smoking for nearly two centuries.”
– Matthew Odam recently went on a 16-stop barbecue tour throughout Texas
– Midwood Smokehouse’s crinkle cut fries makes this list of best fries in Charlotte from Charlotte Agenda
– Always worth a link: