5@5 - Drew Robinson on why barbecue matters
January 25th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

For many, barbecue is the ultimate leveler.

When asked about bridging racial and societal gaps in the South, Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge once responded with, "... There's hope in barbecue."

Southern cookbook author Virginia Willis also believes in the power of smoked meat, adding: "BBQ exist[s] without borders. Every nation under the sun throws meat on fire."

As it turns out, chef/pitmaster Drew Robinson of Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q takes his cue from the same school of thought.

Five Reasons Why Barbecue is Important: Drew Robinson

1. Community
"At barbecue gatherings in by-gone eras, people probably didn’t need a reason to be reminded to get together and share each other’s time. That’s just not the case anymore. People look for reasons to maintain community and their sense of place in it. Fortunately, we have barbecue as a sort of communal elixir. Barbecue is both primal and elemental which is why it has great power to equalize people. It grounds people and roots them to their place. There’s something magical in that smoky meat that helps us find our common ground, our place at the table and our place in the community."

2. Having a good time
"I don’t think anyone seriously connected to barbecue and barbecue culture would tell you they don’t live a good life. It may be hard work, but there is never any shortage of joy and happiness over what you’re doing. Firing up the pit usually means firing up the music, cooling down the beer, telling stories of varying degrees of truthfulness and being generally satisfied just to see where the time takes you. In the event you have a whole hog and the smoke and embers carry you into the wee hours, you’ll usually find that's where some of the best times are had."

3. Lessons learned
"You learn a lot around the fire. The Pitmaster learns about technique, detail, hospitality and the patience only slow cooking can teach. Depending on the sauce served, you might learn a lot about geography and most certainly how to carry on a right and proper debate. But one thing the pit obviously can not teach is spelling. Barbecue, Barbacoa, Bar-B-Q, Bar-B-Que and for the truly deficient ... BBQ. If, I am missing one, please tweet me."

4. Eating your napkin
"There is more than one food that requires genuine physical engagement with true disregard for how your shirt looks after the meal, but for me barbecue stands at the top of the list. And while there is more than one way to eat barbecue, probably the most common method is on a bun or between two slices of white bread. There is something very magical and proletariat about wrapping a small mountain of well-sauced meat in a bun. It’s a vehicle to transport it from plate to mouth and while you make your way to the end of the bun you can use it to sop up little drops of sauce and grease from the corners of your mouth and finger tips. It’s like being a kid all over again and getting to play with your food while trying to be civil at the same time."

5. Giving thanks
"In the old days when it was hog-killing time, you’d smoke and cure the things that would get you through winter and you could save some of the fresh meat to eat as a celebration. Some folks might only have a few cuts and some folks were lucky enough to barbecue the whole hog. Either way, it was a time to give thanks for nourishment and needs being filled.

When we sit down together now, barbecue can help remind us that we need to be thankful for what we have. Hogs are one part of a food chain that have helped sustain a people and create a meaningful culture. Barbecue manifested itself as a piece of that cultural tapestry so powerfully that it even has its own subcultures. Tracing those lines back from a rack of ribs or a barbecue sandwich enjoyed with friends and family reminds us that we have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, in some households, particularly in the South, grace doesn’t end with 'Amen,' it ends with 'Amen, let’s eat.'”

*Editors' note: We never said BBQ was pretty - but you asked. We answered. Here's some BBQ porn. Happy now?

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Spoonie

    I never comment on these boards, but I'm sorry that's not BBQ. That is some over priced crap cooked in a indoor smoker with liquid smoke, some saltines, and some ketchup.

    BBQ is not suppose to be complex and it doesn't take a long article to explain it. Low, slow and patience. Your prep and post style depends on what part of the country (Texas, North Carolina or Kansas) fits your taste buds. That's it. If you see white table cloths at a BBQ spot turn around and just walk away.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  2. Angie

    I love what Drew has said about Bar-B-Q and community. His comments obviously reflect his appreciation for the animal, the techniques and the resulting fellowship that takes place around a table. Thanks sir! Can't wait to get myself to a Jim 'N Nick's to eat some smoky Q. Oh, and while the photo is unfortunate, the combination of the pimento cheese and bbq hot links is really delicious.
    Thanks for your great perspective on a beautiful tradition!

    January 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  3. Les

    burnt sausage and saltine crackers... really???

    January 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Cheri

      Les, it is an unfortunate picture, but the actual meal is delicious! This dish has been served in New York City, Charleston, SC, San Fran and Aspen. People LOVE it!!

      March 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Kyle

    Interesting article. All I know is that KC is the undisputed BBQ headquarters of the world. No one has tried even tried BBQ until you visit this city and its famous BBQ restaurants. All that southern BBQ is weak in comparison. As far as the whole hot dog thing? Give me a break. That's grilling, not BBQ. Covering a hotdog or burger in BBQ sauce is not BBQ. Real BBQ takes talent, smoking, and slow cooking the meat to perfection. Then add some JackStack, or Gates sauce and enjoy.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  5. Debbi

    Kevin (not from Central NY) –

    For Easter, cook up a big ol' ham and put it on your side of the table. Compromise means you give a little, they give a little – sounds like you've given the lion's share so far. I can guarantee my dad would consider at any similar request by me with a second to give me a cock-eyed glare and then a well placed little "F* You, pardon my French." He's the dad, he gets to make the rules. Lucky for him, I'm a carnivore!

    January 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  6. Matt

    How are they going to put that picture on there thats on the bottom...Is that a joke or something?..

    January 26, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  7. Anita Souschef

    Fried baloney sandwich with a fried egg. Mama used to make those fried baloney cups with scrambled eggs in them. So cute. But then she couldn't cook with a hoot. Her idea of a balanced meals was 2 canned tamales and a Little Debbie Snack Cake. The lady who raised us taught me squash casserole, corn puddin', collards and fried okra shook up in a paper sack. God bless that woman. We would have starved. The best cornbread on the planet. And Daddy? He taught me the wonders of steak tartare, liverwurst, Vienna Sausages and Soda Crackers and Sardines. His family raised hogs and would cook a pork chop on a meat fork right over the gas stove, no pan required. And cold country fried steak. Like cold fried chicken, some proteins just taste better cold sometimes. Nothin' better than a stale biscuit with a piece of cold country fried steak. Also a good sausage biscuit with mustard. And cornbread and buttermilk. Full fat version. With salt and a Vidalia onion. Don't get me started on 'mater sandwiches eaten over the sink with lots of Duke's mayo, salt and pepper on good old white bread. None of that other bread. Fresh White Bread. And darlin' don't you want a pimento cheese sandwich and a nice glass of sweet tea? Or maybe some fresh lemonade made from almost rotten lemons?

    January 26, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  8. Omnivore

    God gave me incisors to eat meat and corn on the cob. Pass the fritters!

    January 26, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  9. Kevin

    Oh just great – we have 2 Kevin's here – I'm Kevin from Central NY with the last 2 posts by Kevin.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  10. Kevin

    I adjust my previous post – I didn't scroll correctly to note the amount of BBQ folk here. Sorry. To the Vegans and Vegitarians here – my daughter and son are vegitarians – that is there choice. I was forced to comprimise for family dinners – no turkey on Thanksgiving, no Roast Beef at Christmas, no Easter ham, no BBQ's with them in attendance. Why, because of their choice, do I have to comprimise – and it isn't just my own adult children, I've seen this over and over.... Can't go to this resturant or that resturant. The only good that came out of their decision is that, in the art of comprimise, I am an awesome vegitarian cook. Right after the leave for the weekend visits, I haul out a rib eye and a keyser roll and eat the way I want. I don't force them to eat meat, why am I forced to eat veggies?

    January 26, 2011 at 5:08 am |
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