The good and bad of bar­be­cue

The Covington News - - Front page -

Last week, I de­liv­ered my an­nual “State of the Bar­be­cue” ad­dress.

A friend of mine, Bar­clay Rush­ton, hosts a bar­be­cue to end all bar­be­cues at his home. He dis­patches folks to a num­ber of renowned pre­par­ers of pork and of­fers a buf­fet of some of the finest in the re­gion. Be­fore the event, I of­fer my com­ments as a bar­be­cue con­nois­seur.

Bar­be­cue is one of the few things that tech­nol­ogy hasn’t changed.

First of all, be­cause this col­umn ap­pears on the In­ter­net, I have peo­ple who are in places like New York City, who read what I have to say. Bar­be­cue, in this ap­pli­ca­tion, is pork that has been smoked for hours over good wood, usu­ally hick­ory.

It is not a de­vice for cook­ing steaks, ham­burg­ers or wieners. That is a grill. If you go to the Home De­pot on Pat­ter­son Plank Road in Se­cau­cus, which is just out­side New York City in New Jer­sey, they might try to sell you a grill and call it a bar­be­cue. They are wrong.

There are also folks who read this in Texas. They think bar­be­cue means a beef brisket. They, too, are wrong, that is roast beef.

Bar­be­cue is also a name for an event at which bar­be­cue is served. If you are serv­ing ham­burg­ers, that would be a cook­out.

Folks have tried to pack­age real pork bar­be­cue in var­i­ous ways. Bobby Poss, who once was a bar­be­cue en­tre­pre­neur in Athens, once sold canned ver­sions of his bar­be­cue and Brunswick stew. It was good, but it was not the real thing. The same is true for the guys who mar­keted a frozen bar­be­cue sand­wich on a bun.

If you are eat­ing bar­be­cue in a restau­rant, it should be a place that smells like hick­ory smoke. If you eat bar­be­cue, the folks who are near you later should be able to de­tect a hint of the aroma in your clothes.

At Bar­clay Rush­ton’s shindig, no­body smelled like bar­be­cue, ex­cept the folks who went and picked up the pork. It was a great se­lec­tion with good meats and a se­lec­tion of sauces rang­ing from vine­gar-to toma­to­based.

Bar­be­cue should be an ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether you’re eat­ing in some­body’s yard or a bar­be­cue joint, it should be mem­o­rable. An­other thing, most gen­uine bar­be­cue places are opened no more than four days a week.

Per­haps I need to re­visit im­por­tant things to look for. If you walk in and hear canned mu­sic play­ing, peo­ple wear­ing nametags and you don’t smell smoke, this is a sign that you might not be in a bar­be­cue joint.

Bar­be­cue is the food of choice for po­lit­i­cal events in the South. I’ve heard many a stump speech, some good and some bad, while bal­anc­ing a place of bar­be­cue, ditto on the good and bad.

When Marvin Grif­fin tried to make a come­back for gov­er­nor in 1962, he held bar­be­cues all over the state. Af­ter los­ing to Carl San­ders, he said, “Ev­ery­body that ate my bar­be­cue I don’t be­lieve voted for me.”

But there is some­thing about bar­be­cue and good sto­ries, of­ten about other places and times when bar­be­cue was con­sumed.

When you’re talk­ing about good times, some of my best have been spent near a plen­ti­ful pile of per­fectly pre­pared pork.

It doesn’t get much bet­ter.

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