“I DON’T THINK you can really understand the South if you don’t understand barbecue, as food, process, and event” says John Shelton Reed in Barbecue Sociology.
It’s July and the dog days of summer have arrived ablaze with a sultry, steamy barely whisper of a breeze.
The last thing you want to do is turn on the oven or perform any activity that may generate extra heat. I look longingly at the outdoor grill and the empty cold smoker and recall my most memorable barbecue experiences across the back roads and blue highways of the south.
I am a brisket lovin’, rib gnawing, pulled chicken lover participant in the burning nationwide barbecue debate. Barbecue is the slowest of slow cooked foods and brings regional lore and traditions with it from across the south. Barbecue is a basic piece of Americana and a summer pastime for Foodies and Friends.
In my lifelong quest to discover the perfect barbecue, I have had the good fortune of visiting many of the celebrated barbecue temples of the south.
My first introduction to Texas style barbecue was in Fort Worth at Angelo’s and Sonny Bryant’s in Dallas. Angelo’s delicate beef brisket and pork ribs slowly smoked over hickory with a dry rub brought me to my knees. Could this really be barbecue? I thought barbecue was chicken thrown on a grill and slathered with an insipid red sauce from a jar.
This exquisite experience was beyond any food reality that I had ever known.
From that point forward I was a convert. Barbecue became my religion and I was on the road seeking barbecue adventures.
Next stops: the Rendevous in Memphis. Dry charcoal cooked ribs, with a fiery mustard slaw and secret seasoning. Lexington barbecue in North Carolina. Pulled pork shoulder cooked over oak or hickory served with a traditional vinegary relish like slaw and a thin vinegar and ketchup sauce.
Abe’s in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the crossroads of the Delta. Barbecue beef and pork or tamales, with saltines of course, and their signature tangy sauce with sides of beans and slaw or potato salad. These are just a sampling of my favorite barbecue experiences.
Now fire up the grill or the smoker and call a few friends. You just have to decide on the meat: pork, chicken, beef or maybe all three. Your preferred method of cooking: smoking or charcoal grilling. What kind of wood to burn: hickory, pecan or another favorite. Mix up a sizzling side sauce and finally, but not ever to be forgotten, the all important sides: baked beans, potato salad and slaw. Barbecue cannot be enjoyed alone. As Julia Child said, “People who love to eat are really the best people.”
*click photos for related brabecue recipes!