While the rest of the country is awaiting January 20th to begin their (Presidential) Inaugural festivities, we in North Carolina have already begun our Inaugural celebrations with a series of celebrations in honor of our first woman Governor in the state’s history. Beverly Perdue may not be officially sworn in as Governor until Saturday morning, but the festivities started Thursday night with a “Rock the Ball” concert at the Lincoln Theater and continues today with a multi-denominational prayer service and the official Inaugural Ball tonight.
Your $125 ticket to the Inaugural Ball not only gains you access to the new Raleigh Convention Center but to a wide array of catered food from some of the finest chefs across North Carolina.
And therein lies one of the first signs of how our new Governor will govern our state and the wisdom she brings to the job.
As a transplanted Yankee carpetbagger (to quote my North Carolina-raised wife) there have been several things about North Carolina Culture that have made me shake my Northern head in confusion. ACC Basketball, for instance. “No Firearms Allowed” signs at the doors to grocery stores. NASCAR.
And, of course, The Great Barbecue Divide.
As described briefly in that essential reference guide “Encyclopedia of North Carolina” and expanded upon greatly in our exhaustive (and highly entertaining) “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” if the Civil War divided the nation North and South, then the subject of barbecue divides the State of North Carolina East and West.
Now, to the casual observer the difference between Eastern and Western Barbecue comes down to one thing: tomato.
I’ve written on the subject of barbecue here before and as a pesky vegetarian I won’t be weighing in on the matter of East vs. West, Tomato vs. No Tomato. However, I will say that I already like Governor-Elect Beverly Perdue’s approach to barbecue at her Inaugural Ball. When deciding on a catered menu for the Ball it was clear that barbecue had to be on the menu — after all, barbecue and North Carolina politics goes back to the 1700s. To not serve barbecue would be akin to North Carolina Political heresy.
But, which style of barbecue should be served? Go with the tomato and you’ve just alienated half of your constituency. Forgo the tomato and the other half thinks you’ve practically sided with the devil.
So, in one of her first executive decisions, our Governor-Elect has decided to do the fair and proper thing. She’s decided to bring all parties to the table, the same table, and let them take their pick. Representing the Eastern style will be Wilbur’s Barbecue of Goldsboro. Representing the Western style will be Hursey’s Barbecue of Burlington.
May guests at the Inaugural Ball praise their own style of barbecue as being the authentic North Carolina Barbecue and jovially deride the other as not being fit to be called barbecue. Let them debate barbecue history and barbecue tradition and the all-encompassing Culture of Barbecue that all lovers of the holy smoked pig revel in.
Most importantly, though, let them do it together, at the same table. Let them do so face-to-face and in the spirit of cooperation at the beginning of a new era in North Carolina politics. And in so doing, may North Carolina barbecue, in all of it’s varieties, be the foundation of the mutual respect and appreciation that will be essential to meet and overcome the problems we’re facing.
Oh, and one last word of caution: The Inaugural Ball is a formal affair and the dress code states “Ladies wear long dresses or skirts and gentlemen wear tuxedos.” If you’re going to attend, be careful not to get any of your sauce of choice on your fancy gowns and rented tuxes.