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.
– TMBBQ on the italian influences of Texas BBQ in Waco
– An inside look at day one at Rodney Scott’s BBQ last week
– It opened without a hitch after a day or two of soft opening
– If you missed last week’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern as they traveled to Buxton Hall and Fox Bros among others on the “Southern BBQ Trail”, you have a couple more chances to check it out
– Speaking of which, Zimmern has some goodies from his stops available at his website
– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits the Athens, TN location of the Buddy’s Bar-B-Q chain and left unimpressed
– An oldie but goodie from Our State
– A few more stops in the Carolina’s for Grant: Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q in Willow Spring, Skylight Inn in Ayden, and Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que down in Holly Hill, SC
– Robert Moss has an introduction to Georgia BBQ to kickoff Georgia BBQ Week, which Grant will surely love
– Coming to West Nashville soon from Pitmaster Pat Martin
– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ muses on a couple of easy rules for barbecue line etiquette
– From last month, Destination BBQ has an interview with Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Smokehouse in Charleston
– The highly-anticipated Scott’s BBQ has broken ground at its Charleston location
– John Shelton Reed has a pretty out there barbecue theory on why Donald Trump carried the state of NC and I’ll just let him have at it
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.
– This week in “that’s so NC” barbecue: a new barbecue joint called Redneck Barbecue Lab will take over a space that formerly housed a Dairy Queen attached to a BP off I-40 in McGee’s Crossroads
– NY Times’ 13 essential barbecue stops includes Lexington Barbecue
– Speaking of Lexington, the city’s marketing campaign is apparently paying off
– Photos from last week’s 87th Mallard Creek Annual BBQ
– Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin is expanding but the new location won’t simply be “Stiles Switch 2” according to its owner
– New York Times writer Ethan Hauser: I Hopped a Plane Just for a Barbecue Sandwich. I’d Do It Again.
I can tell you with complete assurance that 532 miles is not too far to travel for a sandwich. That is the distance between my home in Ridgewood, Queens, and theSkylight Inn in Ayden, N.C., where a man in a black apron fills the cutout between the kitchen and the cash register and wields cleavers as if they were weapons from “Game of Thrones,” one in each substantial hand.
Eater and The Southern Foodways Alliance visit Ayden, NC:
This week’s pick from Southern Foodways Alliance’s documentary program profiles Skylight Inn BBQ, once named the “capital of barbecue” in America by National Geographic. The all-wood, whole-pig production at Skylight Inn has been family-run for three generations, and it’s renown (for quality, flavor, and values) extends far beyond the city limits of Ayden, North Carolina.
– 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
– Daniel Vaughn’s best Texas barbecue bites in 2015
– Upcoming Durham restaurant openings include Picnic, a “modern take on barbecue joint” set to open in early February as well as a “biscuit and barbecue concept” at the American Tobacco Complex
– Franklin Barbecue is on this list of Austin restaurants that are opting out of open carry; on the other end of the spectrum, Brooks Place in Houston is giving open carry patrons 25% off
– Midwood Smokehouse is one of the restaurants who have expanded from the uptown area to the ‘burbs
– The year in Kansas City barbecue
– Rodney Scott gives thanks
– Congrats to Sam Jones on the opening of his new barbecue joint in Greenville, NC last week and continuing the tradition of wood-cooked barbecue
A decade back, those of us who make a living writing about and documenting barbecue were worried. Honest, wood-cooked barbecue was imperiled, we said. Pitmasters who dedicated their lives to firing pits and flipping hogs were atavistic, we worried, wheezing their way toward foregone retirement.
I’m pleased to report that we seers of ‘cue were wrong. We lacked vision. We lacked heart. Evidence of our errors of belief is seemingly everywhere. Traditional barbecue is now in renaissance.
– More on Sam Jones and his role as fire chief in Ayden from the Southern Foodways Alliance and Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang
– Food Republic has a guide on where to eat in Columbia, SC that includes a couple of barbecue joints including Hite’s BBQ, True BBQ, and Big Boy’s Original Smokehouse
– Pork ribs in Mississippi changed Adam Perry Lang’s life
– Charlotte Agenda thinks Midwood Smokehouse has one of the best non-traditional tacos in the city
– On so-called “nouveau ‘cue” and the supersizing of barbecue
– Thanksgiving is coming, so here’s a homemade mac and cheese recipe from Midwood Smokehouse
– Rodney Scott has influenced Sean Brock. Here’s how:
– The history of smoking with mesquite wood
– Marie, Let’s Eat! makes a quick sojourn to SC and visits Hite’s and Little Pigs in the Columbia area, as well as Dennis’ Bar-B-Q on the way back home
– Washington Post’s glossary of NC barbecue terms and where to eat in NC
– Washington Post’s Jim Shahin: Why North Carolina’s Barbecue Scene is Still Smoldering
North Carolina barbecue is certainly at a crossroads, one that gets to the heart of questions about identity and authenticity, and the survival of pit-smoked pork establishments that eschew the everything-for-everybody approach once seemed unlikely. But Skylight Inn and Lexington Barbecue are on track to maybe prove that prediction wrong. And new places such as Picnic and Buxton Hall are helping spark a resurgence in creativity and respect for heritage that may help revive the scene. North Carolina barbecue might someday be removed from the endangered-species list, after all. I’ll hold off on that autopsy for now.
Check out Capital Q, a short film by Joe York on the history of Ayden, NC’s Skylight Inn and the Jones family commissioned by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Its 16 minutes long but is a quick watch.