Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” by John T. Edge

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: John T. Edge’s book “Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” is the latest in a series of similar-but-unrelated books I’ve read recently that fall into a similar bucket. That is, short profiles on classic restaurants – be they southern, soul food, barbecue joint or otherwise. What ultimately sets “Southern Belly” apart is that it covers the entire south state-by-state from East Texas to Virginia as well as the writing of John T. Edge. Man, that guy knows how turn a phrase.

Any posts or stories about John T. Edge should acknowledge the recent accusations of him. A New York Times story from the summer called him the “white gatekeeper of southern food” and noted the numerous calls from current and former staff members and contributors for him to step down as director of the Southern Foodways Alliance after 20 years in favor of a person of color. What a 12-person audit conducted over the summer ultimately led to was Edge keeping his position for the time being but promising “to make immediate improvements and launch a long-term strategic review of the nonprofit group to diversify a predominantly White staff and leadership tasked with the study of a food culture created largely by enslaved people.” Critics of the audit outcome note the lack of specificity when it comes to a plan or even a timeline for Edge’s departure. Worth following for sure if and when more specifics are announced.

In a year when the James Beard Awards was cancelled allegedly due to no black winners, it seems as if 2020 is the year of chickens coming home to roost for the historically white food institutions.

Ultimately, I decided to still read “Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” in light of all of the recent accusations regarding John T. Edge. It’s still a worthy read and can point you to some great restaurants (at least those that are still around since the original 2007 publish date). Take that for what you will, but if you do check it out, be sure to read with eyes open.

Linkdown: 7/1/20

Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller writes about the union between July 4th and barbecue; thankfully he is “not talking about hamburgers and hot dogs on a kettle grill. I’m talking about ‘old school’ barbecue, where a whole animal carcass was skewered with wooden poles and cooked over a trench filled with burning coals from hardwood trees.”

Brisket roulade, you say?

Midwood Smokehouse’s Roadhouse burger, made of ground chuck and brisket, makes Charlotte Agenda’s Top 23 burgers in Charlotte list

Queen City Q is one of the 14 Charlotte businesses that have permanently closed due to COVID-19 according to Charlotte Five

Old Bay Hot Sauce while supplies last

Louie Mueller back

Some good deals to be had at Hardcore Carnivore in case you are woefully late on a Father’s Day gift (or heck, even Mother’s Day)

I will be eagerly following how this story about Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge unfolds

Friday Find: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Ed Mitchell

The Gravy podcast from the Southern Foodway Alliance interviews Ed Mitchell and his son Ryan on the past and the future of their barbecue ventures and how it hasn’t been so easy for a black man to innovate barbecue in eastern NC.

Description: Ed Mitchell’s name has come to be synonymous with Eastern North Carolina wood-smoked whole-hog barbecue. From Wilson, North Carolina, he grew up smoking hogs and has tried to continue that tradition, using old techniques and traditionally farm-raised pigs. 

But almost since the start, Ed Mitchell’s barbeque journey has not been a straight line—business relationships, racism, and smoke have all shaped his rollercoaster ride.

Reporter Wilson Sayre is our guide in looking at those twists and turns.