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: While Ed Mitchell’s The Preserve barbecue restaurant is still yet to announce its long-awaited opening in Raleigh, Ed and his son Ryan have stayed busy writing and releasing a barbecue cookbook co-written by them with author, filmmaker, and scholar (among many other things) Zella Palmer. But the book is so much more than your standard barbecue cookbook with recipes. Interwoven throughout is the history of Ed “The Pitmaster” Mitchell and his family in eastern NC as well as stories from the past to illustrate the black experience in the South, whether its the barbecue, tobacco, farming, or fishing.
The hardcover book is a gorgeously assembled book with Baxter Miller’s beautiful color photography of the Mitchells and the food for each recipe. Speaking of the food, in addition to the standard barbecue recipes you would expect – whole hog, brisket, ribs, chicken, etc – Ed really explores eastern NC recipes of dishes and sides through his family history and his experiences. Touchingly, many of the dishes are named for prominent black figures in his life.
From a storytelling angle, Ed tells his side of a couple of notable stories throughout chapters in the book – the time he went to prison for 30 days for not paying sales tax for his Wilson family restaurant (it should be noted that he later successfully sued the bank for racial discrimination and wrongful foreclosure), meeting Anthony Bourdain early in his fledgling media career, beating Bobby Flay at ribs, going to Oxford, MS to meet John T. Edge and the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his many years attending the Big Apple Block Party while only receiving on a small stipend for his efforts.
But Ed’s isn’t the only voice you read throughout the book. Other members of the Mitchell family get a chance to tell their story, including his son Ryan as well as his younger brothers Aubrey and Stevie. His mom Doretha in particular is a trip and essentially takes over the dessert chapter in the back of the book with her tales. And outside of the Mitchell family, the prologue features notable contributions in the form of introductory chapters by co-author Zella Palmer (whose family’s roots are in Eastern NC), Wilson, NC historian Lisa Y. Henderson, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance John T. Edge, and barbecuer/rocket scientists Dr. Howard Conyers.
Unfortunately, as of the writing of this post Ed Mitchell’s The Preserve still doesn’t have an opening date in Raleigh but the website still indicates a 2023 opening. I hope Ed Mitchell is able to soon open his restaurant and that it is successful, because the barbecue world is better when he’s actively cooking in it. Until then, “Ed Mitchell’s Barbecue” is a worthy read and deserving of shelf space in your bookcase.
Monk: Dr. Dana Hanson of NC State’s Meat Science Department breaks down east versus west barbecue in North Carolina in this video from Our State Magazine.
Description: ’Cue is our state’s signature sustenance, but with two distinct styles — eastern and Lexington — that’s typically where our agreement ends. Luckily, no matter which side of this delicious rivalry you fall on, barbecue is a food that brings people together.
Name: Rodney Scott’s BBQ Date: 6/18/23 Address: 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 Order: Two meat combo platter with whole hog and ribs with hush puppies and coleslaw, wings (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: In my first and only visit to Rodney Scott’s BBQ 6 years ago, while I loved the whole hog I noted in that review that I should have tried the ribs. Speedy’s review the following year further reinforced that notion, although he wasn’t effusive in his praise. Knowing that I was going to be able to force Mrs. Monk into going to Rodney Scott’s while in Charleston this past Father’s Day weekend, I was not going to throw away my shot.
Let’s start our review with those ribs, shall we. In the two meat combo platter I got a generous serving of 5 bones and boy let me tell you they were big, meaty spares. Each bone was perfectly cooked, allowing for bite marks without the meat falling completely off the bone. And while there was a slight glaze, these bones weren’t oversauced and had great flavor. I was glad I ordered them but reader, I must admit that I could only finish three of the five.
The whole hog was as good as I remembered and with the barbecue of the Hemingway Scott’s a distant memory, I was able to judge it on its own merits. Great texture and while I accidentally poured a little too much Rodney’s sauce, a slightly spicy vinegar pepper sauce, onto my tray the pork soaked it right up while not getting overwhelmed.
Mrs. Monk, our friend Mo, and I shared the half dozen wings and all noted aloud how good they were. They were smoked before being freshly fried right before they were delivered to our table. Which led to crispy wings with a nice flavor – you might say sweet with a little heat – that paired nicely with the Alabama white dipping sauce.
The hush puppies were light and crispy, clearly also having just been freshly fried just prior to being served to us. The mayo slaw was standard.
On this Charleston Saturday in June, we sat outside at a picnic table painted in the signature blue of Rodney Scott’s and found it to be quite pleasant in the shade. So much so that we lingered long after finishing our food, generally unaffected by any Charleston swampiness in the air. The barbecue met all expectations and if you’re looking to get something besides beef at a barbecue joint in Charleston, Rodney Scott’s BBQ is your best bet.
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