Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rogers: We must protect and preserve barbecue

Columnist Dennis Rogers of the News & Observer has a passionate diatribe in the May 24th issue calling for the preservation of "good" North Carolina barbecue.

"Far too much second-rate pig meat is being peddled as authentic North Carolina barbecue these days," he writes. "I have been faithful to the Holy Grub. Yet I feel like a lovesick cowboy who has been done wrong by a cheatin' gal."

Among the suggestions (along with just plain high standards) are the creation of a Barbecue Society and a Historic Barbecue Trail -- not unlike Civil War trails that already exist.

"The society would sponsor a celebration of the tasty trifecta of smoke, swine and time called the Tarheel Barbecue Classic. Barbecue experts from the east, Piedmont and mountains would gather in Raleigh for a weekend of eating, cooking, seminars and storytelling devoted to the food that once made Parkers Barbecue on U.S. 301 in Wilson among the state's most famous tourist attractions.

"And -- please remove your hat as a sign of respect -- there would be an official Barbecue Hall of Fame. The first inductees would likely be the Rev. Adam Scott of Goldsboro, a black Holiness preacher who sold barbecue off his back porch in the 1930s; Bob Melton, whose restaurant on the Tar River was legendary in Rocky Mount; Warner Stamey, the godfather of Lexington-style pig; and Eastern North Carolina's own King of 'Cue, the recently-deceased Pete Jones of Ayden's Skylight Inn. They are this state's Sultans of Smoke."

Rogers goes on to note that if you are interested in talking to Winston-Salem lawyer Jim Early about a Society, then you can reach him at at 1320 Westgate Center Dr., Winston-Salem, NC 27106 or send an e-mail message to


James Curle said...

Right on! Glad to see someone "gets it."

Last night's episode of Rachel Ray's "$40 a day" was in the Triangle, and she made a point to seek out good Carolina barbeque (the omission of the word "North" was a hint of bad things to come). So in the greater Triangle area, her short list of destinations would've included Allen and Son in Chapel Hill, or Cooper's in downtown Raleigh, Stephenson's near McGee's Crossroads or even Ole Time near Cary, right?

No. She was directed (via the always "accurate" Independent award winner listings) to The Barbeque Joint in Chapel Hill.

Now I've never eaten there, let me state for the record, but if you have the above list to choose from and pass on one of them for The Barbeque Joint, then you've already lost any hope of true 'Que "street cred."

The appeal and love we as North Carolinians have for our barbeque is its link to the past, so choosing a 'Que resturaunt with a rich history is just as important to us as is the BBQ itself.

Long story short, Shorty McNonnative walks into The Barbeque Joint, orders a trendy microbrew orders a plate of "Eastern" 'que (despite it being shredded, not finely chopped as it should be), and for the Coup De Grace, she asks the guy working the counter for a suggestion on the side.

Ok, BBQ Proprietor--now's your time to win us over. Collards? Boiled Potatoes? Brunswick Stew?

"How 'bout a side of brussell sprouts?"
"Sure, that sounds great!"

If TVs came with backup remotes, I surely would've smashed the original into a thousands pieces hurling it wildly at the screen.

Rachel Ray 1; True N.C. Easten Style 'Que 0

So Ms. Ray, enjoy your trendy microbrew, your shredded "Eastern Style" 'que, and your *gag* brussel sprouts.

We folks in the know will stick to the real deal.

M. Lail said...

Mr. Curle. That, sir, is why you are one of the best writers around. Thank you so much.

You can tell it is getting bad when restaurants have to actually put the fact that it's "Eastern style" or "North Carolina" barbecue in their restaurant names. You didn't have to do that in the past: Cooper's BBQ. Wilber's. Parker's, etc. None of this "Cooper's Eastern-Style N.C. Barbecue." You knew what you were getting. (And, fortunately in some places, you still do.) Now ... not so much. (The one exception, in my mind, is Carolina BBQ in Garner. They get a pass for their "naming" faux pas.)

I, for one, am interested in a BBQ Society if for no other reason than to do my part to preserve this great heritage. I can't profess to even know how to cook a good shoulder, like you, Mr. Curle; but I sure do enjoy eating one.

To paraphrase a cheesy sports apparel commercial: "We must protect this 'cue!"

Anonymous said...

I think the sad thing is that in the Triangle there's not great ENC 'cue. You really have to know where to go or search for it. I like the Barbecue Lodge on Capital Blvd. Unfortunately, when non-natives come here, they think Red, Hot & Blue (which is good, mind you) is good barbecue. It IS good -- but it's good Memphis BBQ, not NC BBQ.