Well folks, that special time is finally upon us—it’s Barbecue Month! (Well, it was throughout May, but we celebrate all year long!) While many of those around the country are probably thinking it’s time to dust off their grilling machines and spatulas, we in the south know what this month is really celebrating, and that is the barbecue that comes on a plate next to the slaw, hushpuppies and potato salad! Whether you are a fan of vinegar based, tomato based, pulled, chopped or even sliced, the summer is upon us and there is nothing better than barbecue!
North Carolinians who’ve always celebrated with barbecue started holding barbecues to celebrate barbecue….got it? This phrase means to say that it has long been a southern tradition for people to gather around food as a means of celebration, family and relaxation. We like to refer to them as “pig-pickings,” but cookouts, tailgates and parties also work just as well (but we’ll know you aren’t from ‘round these parts!)
John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, authors of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue quote William Schmidt’s explanation to readers of the New York Times— in the south, barbecue is not just a food, “it is a cultural ritual, practiced with a kind of religious fervor among various barbecue sects, each of whom believes their particular concoction of smoke and sauce and spices is the only true way to culinary salvation.” The Reeds tell us that North Carolina barbecue has its own special guidelines, and it ain’t the real deal unless it follows these three components: Meat that…..
1. Has been barbecued—cooked for a long time at a low temperature with heat and smoke from a fire of hardwood and or hardwood coals;
2. Is pork—whole hog, shoulder, or (occasionally) ham;
3. Is served with a thin sauce that is most likely a slight variation on a traditional recipe including vinegar, red pepper, and maybe tomato.
Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue gives lots of history on this intricate part of southern food culture, as well as the ins and outs to how it is prepared, where to get the best of the best, and the who’s who of the pitmasters that make barbecue the mouthwatering delicacy that we all crave!
As the weather continues to get nicer, days get longer and you find yourself surrounded by friends, family, good tunes, and easy conversation, remember that this special month pays tribute to that tasty bbq sandwich you are smothering with saucy goodness and—if you can—take a moment to pay homage before you chow down.
Also, if you are still looking for more information on all that is barbecue, check out Frank Stasio today on the State of Things—he’s talking about “pig candy”—intrigued, aren’t you?! Here is the link: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/Sot052709bc.mp3/view