On BBQ

In North Carolina, nay, the South altogether, you must understand that BBQ is a NOUN, not a verb. And each region has it’s specialty, and everyone else are heathens.

This is PARTICULARLY true in the Carolinas, where the regions are particularly proud of their variety. Eastern NC (whole hog, vinegar based sauce), Western NC (aka Lexington BBQ – shoulder only, tomato based sauce), and South Carolina (Mustard and Vinegar based sauce). Many an argument has been had over the validity of a particular variety, who’s momma makes the best sauce, and who’s daddy roasts the best pig[1].

But we all agree on one thing – no matter what region you are from, Carolina BBQ is by far the best in the world, and we all agree that anyone who disagrees with THAT needs to have their head checked.

Now, I am all about Eastern NC BBQ, something I didn’t truly appreciate until I had been out of state for a few years, and couldn’t GET it anymore. When people said “we’re having a BBQ” and it was nothing more than grilled meats, MAYBE with memphis style sauce on chicken or ribs, I had to check my temper and explain to them what REAL BBQ is, and how they were doing it wrong.

It was then that I realized something important – the North Carolina BBQ had gotten into my blood. Nay, into my very genetic makeup.

And that really, there was no hope for me but to return to NC (and I may give many other reasons when asked why I came home, but really, how can someone live where BBQ is a VERB?), so that I could once again have proper Eastern NC BBQ on demand.

What brings this on?

We went to a pig-pickin’ yesterday. This is a Southern tradition, whereby a large grill (usually converted from an oil drum or two) is used to roast a pig (half or whole) for several hours until done (the best start cooking at 4am, and serve the food somewhere around 4pm) while being basted in that tangy/spicy/sweet Eastern NC vinegar sauce the whole time. Oh, you can do it sans sauce, and add after, but it’s not the same.

And Ursula? I love her, but she doesn’t get it. Yet.

It only took me 30 years to discover that I love sweet tea[2]. Give it a few years, and then we’ll be far away, and she’ll get the craving for proper NC BBQ. and we won’t be able to get it, and shortly after we get off the plane, we’ll be at one of the reputable Eastern NC BBQ places[3]

And then I’ll know she’s truly adapted.

[1] As well as the official record of parentage of your opponent in the discussion, including but not limited to the nature of the honor of the opponent’s mother. Also up for debate are the breeding habits of your opponent, their father, and the pig which they roast. So yeah, BBQ discussions can get heated in these parts.
[2] At a wedding they had nothing but water and sweet tea. And after a lifetime of having mediocre sweet tea forced upon me I had given up, and was drinking this because, well, it wasn’t water. This particular tea was the nectar of heaven. And that was it, I was hooked.
[3] Cooper’s in Raleigh,Allen & Son’s in Hillsboro or Bynum, and Old Tymme in Cary. And if all else fails, Smithfield’s. I’m not saying The Pitt in Raleigh isn’t good, but I want a place that specializes in Eastern BBQ and fried chicken (and MAYBE fried fish).

About Kevin Sonney

Kevin Sonney - who, contrary to popular opinion was NOT raised by wolves - grew up in central North Carolina. He fell into the technology field by accident in 1991, when he gave up the wild and crazy lifestyle of an on-air AM radio DJ to become a mundane technical support monkey. The technology industry has never really recovered from this. Kevin has worked for such names as IBM, Red Hat, webslingerZ, and Lulu Technologies (we won't mention the ones that didn't survive the experience). He currently works as a Linux Administrator for Apptio. In his spare time he rescues stray animals and plays video games with his two sons. His wife, we're sad to say, helps him get past the really hard bits. Kevin is still not very mundane, he just got better at hiding it.
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6 Responses to On BBQ

  1. Kitashla says:

    I never realized that the vinegar based sauce was Eastern. I knew and understood the very obvious difference in sauces, but to be quite honest, I thought ALL of NC followed the Eastern flavor of sauce.

    But that might be because the major BBQ places here (which is closer to Western than anything else) all use the vinegar based sauce.

    Which I’m good with. I do think that for pulled pork BBQ, the ONLY sauce to have is a vinegar based one.

    But when I make ribs at home, I have to admit that while my homemade sauce DOES have plenty of vinegar in it, it is more tomato based than anything else.

  2. “I’m not saying The Pitt in Raleigh isn’t good”

    Oh, well, let me say it for you. Real BBQ joints don’t get a NYTimes review.

    I really don’t get it. That place is an over-commercialized piece of dreck. It’s expensive, inconvenient to almost everywhere, they lack variety in sides, and it’s not even tasty. Aside from being exceedingly accommodating of large groups, they have no redeeming feature.

  3. Now I want some good BBQ… *sigh*

  4. zer05um says:

    Speaking as an antipodean, I would argue that a really top-flight BBQ requires fresh shrimp or fish from the Coral Sea, or as a Kiwi, fresh lamb off the Southern Alps and veges done in a hangi.

    Mind you, the only times I’ve had BBQ in the US are Alaska, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona and Ohio (I think in that order…)

    Now, I will agree with you, from the bottom of my heart about sauces. That’s an American strength and we recognise it. Best BBQ I know of? Public grill on the shore of Te Anau Moana (Lake Te Anau) or on the lakeside in Wanaka. How good the kai is is up to the chef, but as a venue – WOW.

  5. Wade Minter says:

    Living out here in San Antonio for two years, I’ve had Smithfield’s BBQ shipped out to me on a few occasions. I NEED IT THAT BADLY!

    Fortunately, I’m moving back to Raleigh this summer, so I can have Clyde Cooper’s any time I want it.

  6. God, I miss some eastern NC BBQ.

    Best eastern NC BBQ: Murphy House in Louisburg, NC. (They are also the ones who do the BBQ sandwiches at the State Fair in the agri concesssion stand… where the cows and fruits/veggies are).

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