Food / Good Life

Barbecue is not a Verb

Barbecue is not a Verb.

Around here, nothing says, “you aint from around here”, more than using the word Barbecue as a verb. This would be closely followed by referring to a grill as “The Barbecue”. Folks might let you get away with referring to an event as “A Barbecue”, maybe. Around here, the sacrosanct definition of barbecue is the meat itself. The meat itself, as barbecue does, stirs enough contention. There is no reason to go off and confuse things with these homonyms. 

When I say, around here, I’m talking about North Carolina. Folks here are going to argue with you about being the epicenter of all barbecue in God’s creation. Around here it gets really complicated because, in this center of the barbecue universe, we have a high opinion about our barbecue from one town to the next, one family to the next for that matter. 

We could go into the merits of every little regional style and every pit-master’s variation. How they do it minced wet and vinegary Down East, or the tangy catsup in the Piedmont, or that thick smoke up there in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Folks argue about the mustard down in Columbia. Tennessee and St. Louis enter the conservation sometimes (although they were not even settled when Carolina had already mastered the hog). Folks argue whether it’s whole hog or shoulders or ribs or even if it’s pork at all. Those cowboys from Texas start talking about beef brisket. Anybody from Texas will fight you over their barbecue- but that’s an argument to leave alone- it’s like fighting over one girl that has five beautiful sisters. 

There is an argument about the wood- there’s hickory and applewood and mesquite and oak. Sauce enters the conversation. Slaw enters the conversation. Even pickles enter the conversation. Some people argue over Barbecue restaurants- if you’ve gone to one for the service or the table clothes you have missed the point. Gristle on the waitresses and creosote in the wall panels is a good sign, but the meat tells all.

Like clockwork, regional magazines about the South do what they do. They annually pander to their audiences by featuring a pit-master or a couple of joints on a “BBQ trail”. Guaranteed engagement. The debate then is open again in the comments section. “You forgot to mention B-Bob’s down in Dutch Elbow” and the like.

I just sit back and laugh. If you have ever eaten bad Barbecue you know it. When you have indulged in barbecue at its highest form you really know it. For the most part, good barbecue is good enough. Save arguing over the styles and types. These are Blonde-Brunette-Redhead arguments. 

Friendly advice is not to discuss religion or politics with new acquaintances. Around here, we add barbecue to that list just to round it off. Barbecue is a religion and it’s sort of tied to politics. Go up to Mallard Creek Presbyterian and ask them about that matter.

So I just look at it with this logic: 

–  God is good.

  • Most churches are good.
  • Some churches are are a little better than others, but still good to visit.
  • If you are asking me— my church is the best*- but you didn’t ask did you? 


Happy Fourth,


*On Independence Day nothing beats a whole hog pig pickin’. In all that argument over the word Barbecue, the word’s origin refers to a cooking method- the WHOLE animal roasted over a spit in the smoke of its own dripping fat. From the the French Language Barb=nose, Que=Tail. On a normal day at home a shoulder on the smoker will do, but the Fourth of July is not any day.

My ideal barbecue is slowly cooked over hickory smoke in an oil drum pit under a shady tree by the lake. The beast starts skin up and is flipped halfway through- this being the only time the lid is lifted until the dinner bell rings. Several cases of cold domestic beer will be consumed in the process as that blue smoke slowly tumbles out of the chimney. Near completion, someone will sneak the lid open and “pick” some of the shoulder meat. The hog will be transferred to a large wooden slab to rest. 

The body cavity will be filled with chopped and minced meat with plenty of caramelized fat and crispy ends cut in. There will be meat for “pulling” and “picking” left at the shoulders with handsome burnt ends and pink smokey meat. The pulled pork is great stuff, but the blend of all the different parts of the hog, perfectly executed with the fat- crisp like bacon- is what I consider barbecue perfection. Very few can achieve this. 

The meat is lightly doused with a vinegar-salt-pepper sauce. More can be added at the table. My people don’t believe in having multiple sauces. You have to be convicted and committed to THE one sauce. The slaw is special. It is white coleslaw that is just chopped cabbage and Vidalia onions seasoned – sweet and vinegary with just a hint of mayonnaise base. That’s how we do it- yours might be better, but it’s polite to keep that to yourself.

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