Barbecue Digest: A most disgraceful scene at the Monster Democratic Rally
July 18th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
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Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. Dig in.

In recent years, thanks to the arrival of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and the opening of serious barbecue joints like Blue Smoke and Hill Country, New York City has awakened to the joys of slow-smoked barbecue. But this is hardly the first time that Gothamites have enjoyed pit-cooked meat.

New York's first barbecue took place way back in 1860, during the presidential campaign that pitted Stephen A. Douglas against Abraham Lincoln. In early September, the Douglas Central Campaign Club announced that it had procured a hog, a heifer, two sheep, and a giant ox from Kentucky and would stage a "Monster Democratic Rally, Grand Political Carnival, and Ox Roast." The event was to be held at Jones's Wood at the edge of Manhattan, which stretched between what is now 66th and 75th Streets. The ox was paraded through the streets of New York for two days in advance to generate interest.

Unfortunately, the barbecue quickly devolved into, as one newspaper put it, "a most disgraceful scene." The Douglas club had secured the services of Bryan Lawrence, a butcher from the Centre Market, to cook the animals. Lawrence, an Irish immigrant, would later become a bank executive, philanthropist, and prominent figure in the Democratic party. But it's not clear whether he had actually cooked barbecue before. One reporter described the product that emerged from Lawrence's pits as "the charred remains which are sometimes seen in this city after the destruction of an old tenement home."

The assembled crowd didn't seem to mind. When "feeding time" was announced, they degenerated into a shouting mob. Hungry men burst through the pine fences around the serving area, overturning tables, scattering bread and crackers, and seizing whatever hunks of meat they could get their hands on. It took three hundred policemen to restore order so that Stephen Douglas could take to the platform for his stump speech.

"Nothing like it in politics ever occurred here before," The New York Herald concluded. It would be many years before another political barbecue was attempted in the Big Apple.

Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.

Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog

Previously - Cook the opossum, spare the bear and Comment of the day: how to cook opossum

soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Scowl

    If anyone truly wonders why the US trails other First World countries in academics (especially science) all they have to do is look at this very comments section, filled with numbskulls who can't even differentiate between the Dems and Reps of today and those of 1860. So you guys (and you know who you are) drink the funny tasting Kool-Aid, follow the lead lemming off of a cliff...whatever. These are the kind of people who if they actually thought for themselves would make this country and the world an even more dangerous place.

    July 20, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  2. Carla Vazq

    My family has over 20 street carts that sell pork on the streets of Quito, Ecuador. We have 3 deep pits and 5 above ground roaster cooking day and night. Our restaurant opens at 6 in the morning (before the men to go work) and closes at 12 at night, Sunday through Thursday and we are open 24 hours Friday and Saturday. We serve Pilsner and Club brand beer. A big plate is for $4.50 and beer is $1.30 (large bottles). I worked for my mother from 8 years old until college 2 years ago at Arizona State.

    July 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  3. Ben Dover

    At this stage, ANY Democrat is better than any Republican.

    July 19, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Burp

      Except that today's Democrats are really Socialists. Anyone who votes for a job-killing tax & spend liberal is a fool.

      July 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  4. Failer


    July 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  5. VladT

    Enjoy the historical piece, but again, the conversations always turn into "Republitard vs Dumbocrat," and all that nonsense. I am sure there were both sides that were waiting for some good BBQ, and both sided took part in the "trampling." Living in a small college town with mostly Thai and California Fusion cuisine, reading these articles all summer is making me feel so deprived

    July 19, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • advocatusdiaboli

      I doubt it. It was a fundraiser and then, as today, fundraisers are attended by people who want fund the party giving it, so they were likely mostly Democrats. However, the Republicans I recall had their brawls as well so your statement that both sides behaved equally badly is undoubtedly true.

      July 19, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  6. JellyBean

    Who the fcuk unleashed the trolls? Nothing wrong with the photo, nothing wrong with the read and nothing wrong with a little history to go with some BBQ. Lighten the he ll up people.

    July 19, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • angrybabykitty

      Is there a full moon or something? This & the "praying for rain" piece is full of trolls.

      July 19, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • rg500g

      You misunderstand. CNN is in cahoots with big govt (AKA 'the Man', Big Brother, the Illuminati, LDS, whatever shadow group of rich folk you want to insert here) to put something like this out, wait for the trolls, capture their info to locate them, then engineer their demise thorugh various CIA designed means (all looking like natural causes of course) to eliminate contrarian voices that question everything and everyone. The folks that are left are sheeple who believe everything on the Internet is the truth and big govt is safe to craft the world for us as they see fit. It's all a conspiracy...

      July 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
      • RichardHead@rg500g

        Thank You Fox Mulder.....They Are Out There.

        July 19, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • mike k.

      weekend's comin' up. whatchagonnado

      July 19, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  7. ala-kat

    My wish for this world, outside of good BBQ, is good reading comprehension I aim high :)

    July 19, 2012 at 3:08 am |
  8. Jdevil1735

    "they degenerated into a shouting mob" – wow – nice to see that New Yorkers haven't changed in over 150 years.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:22 am |
  9. Dan

    1860? Is this a CNN article or a high school journalism assignment?

    July 19, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  10. hhcandu

    Disgusting, the meat looks just like a dog!! Kind of low reporting for a civilized society.

    July 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Burp

      Looks like chopped pork to me. But I have no doubt some vegan wuss is waiting to spout their drivel and try to convince us that BBQ is a sin.

      July 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  11. John V

    Is anyone actually surprised by this? It is the left who expect to be handed everything anytime they want it. They are helpless to do anything for themselves except show up for free food and create chaos when they aren't first in line. This is not news. This is what they have been trained to do.

    July 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Hendronicus

      Did you read the piece? It's a story from 1860. You are pathetic.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Solo

      Unfortunately, our society is responsible that they act this way – we give them food stamps, free cell phones, pay their rent and utilities, and beg them to work a pitiful ten or twelve hours a week to qualify for the "welfare to work" program. They think they are valuable to society and all the while, true taxpayers know better.

      July 18, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
      • Seikoholic

        Nothing is more American than offering an opinion without having read the actual article first. Pull your head out, Forrest.

        July 19, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • 6Cobra

      Ironically, in 1860 it was the conservatives who were Democrats and the liberals who were Republicans. These greedy rioters were your intellectual forebears, John. Put that in your BBQ pit and smoke it.

      July 19, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  12. lindaluttrell

    Rats! I thought this was "current" political fodder.

    July 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  13. corey

    where's the story here???

    July 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Look up, it went over your head...

      July 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  14. Snorlax

    Have you ever noticed that the words "Disgrace" and "Democrats" just always seem to go together? Typical of the party of hate.

    July 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      LOL, really? The Party of Hate?
      Who hates homosexuals? Minorities? The poor? Non xtians?
      How's your thumb, cuz you were NOWHERE near the nail with that one!

      July 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
      • I wetness

        Hahaha. My sentiment's the same. How do we let "them" see thru their bubble?!!

        July 19, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Hendronicus

      Did you even read the article? It's a story from 1860. You are pathetic.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • Charlie

        Just shows how long ago the cancer started. NOBAMA, NOBAMA, NOBAMA

        July 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
        • Hendronicus

          The Republicans of 1860 were what you would probably call "liberal", and the Democrats were the conservatives.

          July 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
        • Pandas Eat Bush & Leaves

          Hendronicus, if you start referencing history to the ignorant, you're liable to cause their heads to explode. *thinking* Don't let me stop you.

          July 19, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • robert yocum

      whate happend . sounds like a typical liberal in the pursuite of whate they want, they dont care who they have to run over to get it. you know like the aclu and gaaaay right groups

      July 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
      • Hendronicus

        Did you have a stroke just before typing that? By the way, the story is from 1860. You are pathetic.

        July 19, 2012 at 12:39 am |
      • rg500g

        Yawn... Another troll. There's one thing from the political world of 1860 that I think should be returned to vogue – rioting. Not the idiotic "let's burn our own neighborhood" Watts sort of riot, rather the "lets F up the religio-Nazi Republicans" riot. The simple fact is, the liberal/conservative discussion, or excuse for such, died quite some time ago, and I honestly believe now it's time to kick it up a notch. Atavistic as it may appear, a serious dustup with bodies in the street can be quite cathartic. I could certainly go for a 'Gangs of New York' style of discussion with some birthers.

        July 19, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  15. Philo99

    There have been BBQ joints in New York and Philly for years and years. It's just that they are in the ghetto and the successful people aren't forced to eat those subprime cuts of meat.

    July 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Les Too

      Sub-prime cuts? The new standards for meat grading are NOT what would have been considered prime at that time. Until the last decade or so nice white marbled tender meat was stamped "Prime". And the fatless tough stuff was considered to be fit only for the poor. The long slow cooking of meat used for BBQ renders even the toughest morsel tender and succulent. The snob factor has no place in the world of the BBQ. The "fine dining" style of BBQ is insipid and tasteless.

      July 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Ryox82

      @Philo99, really showing your ignorance here.

      July 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

      ive been to many bbq's in the "ghetto" in NYC and the meat was not sub prime in any way, obviously you have no clue what your talking about, the "ghetto" for you ignorant folks does not mean in any way that we are eating rotted meat, grow up, the BEST bbq i have ever been to have been in the ghetto wether it was ATL or NYC

      July 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Ryan in Texas

      OK, look at my name. Now try and focus. Select, Choice, and Prime are grades of meat as per USDA testing standards. The grading is based mainly on the marbling of the fat in the cow. More marbling means more tender under almost all circumstances (the fat is between the muscle and when heat makes it soft, the meat is more tender because of the fat essentially lubricating the chewing of the muscle). The cow that has prime sirloin, or prime porterhouse will also have better brisket. Same is true in the opposite way with lower grade meat such as select. Select T-bone, Select Chuck – and you get tougher brisket from that cow. So there is a difference in the quality of beef between different animals. So the idea that BBQ is sub-prime beef, when most steaks such as ribeyes Americans eat are sub-prime (Choice and Select are both sub prime) is just uninformed. If you are talking about less favored cuts, consider flank or skirt steak (fajita steak). It was cheap 20 years ago, now it is expensive. They once had a law in Maine that you could not FORCE your slaves to eat lobster more than 3 times a week because it was considered a bug in the ocean. Favored/unfavored is like popular/unpopular. It changes. But Prime, Choice and Select don't change. There is a big difference between Select grade Chuck steak and Prime grade Chuck steak even though Chuck steak isn't considered a "fine" steak. There are many places in Texas (and other states) that serve delicious BBQ. Often the brisket they use is from cattle that grade out as prime. You usually don't see it at the grocery stores, and I'm guessing that some of your BBQ places up there can't seem to get it (or good wood such as pecan or post oak), and you have taken that to mean it is like that everywhere – it isn't. Remember, Tex-Mex is also a new thing up where you are, and it been here for a very long time. Maybe good BBQ will also get there someday.

      July 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  16. Solo

    Is anyone really surprised at this? It's pretty typical behavior from this sort of crowd – always loud and screaming, pushing, shouting, spouting political and ignorant rhetoric – and looking for a free meal.

    July 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Hendronicus

      You do realize that this story is from 1860, right. You are pathetic.

      July 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
      • Solo

        Well, let's see... the only thing that has changed is that I'm now paying almost half of my income in taxes to fund free breakfasts, lunches for their many children; daycare for the ones not in school, food stamps for everyone in their household (including the live-in that won't work); free cable television, free utilities, rent, bus or taxi vouchers (because it's just too rough taking the bus sometimes); and my personal favorite... free cell phones. If you enjoy paying for them, that's your opinion, but not mine. I'm tired of seeing those who are responsible trampled by those who feel so "entitled" to whatever they want.

        July 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
        • Hendronicus

          In 1860, the Republicans were the "liberal" party and the Democrats were the conservatives. Not that facts matter much to your kind of ilk. Also, you are pathetic.

          July 19, 2012 at 12:42 am |
        • Scott

          Dang it...I,m a liberal democrat and still paying for my cable and all my meals and my cell phone...all that stuff that you say you are paying for. I,m sorry, I didnt realize....where do i sign up?

          July 19, 2012 at 3:45 am |
        • Scott

          you are just tired

          July 19, 2012 at 3:46 am |
      • Fred Evil

        Probably also unaware that the parties have also essentially switched sides since then. Lincoln was a Republican, with today's Democratic ideals.

        July 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
        • Hendronicus

          Yep, and the truly sad part is that there are only really two parties in the US.

          July 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  17. Jack

    Obama college transcripts will never be released until his presidential library opens in Hawaii twenty years from now. They will show that Obama smoked so much pot that his grades were worse than Bush Jr. How about that libs, you elected an idiot because the media didn't do it's job. Don't be morons again, America. Please. Don't elected Obama for a second go 'round. Vote GOP in 2012.

    July 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Jack, Dan, Al? Why don't you just use your real name, Mitt?

      July 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Dubya was totally coked out in college, but his dad was the governor and then the president. Obama actually had to show up for his classes and exams instead of sleeping in. Besides, we've seen what Dubya can do, which is dope off in Crawford while the VP ran the country. Get real; we're sticking with the grownup we elected to clean up after Dubya's childish administration. Best you can do is admit you still can't believe in his birth certificate, and that just says you are stupid, not that he is.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
      • WHAT?

        Sorry, but Obama's birth certificate is still an issue and he's making it as such – just show the proof (which he has not) and then we can move on, right? He's tried paying of witnesses and falsifying paperwork – it's something all natural citizens have, but somehow his homework got lost.
        I'd really like to put my feet up and relax on this one (and have a cold drink, like the "Ugly Monkey Mee-Chell" that I had at a cool bar the other day) but can't and neither can most other Americans. Obama was a junior Senator with next to nothing in real experience and relied on his race to get votes. Pathetic.

        July 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
        • Fred Evil

          "Obama's birth certificate is still an issue"
          Only for the mentally challenged and hardcore bigots. Your ODS is so out of control you won't even accept the word of the Republican Governor of Hawaii? What about the chief election official in Arizona?
          Never mind, you put on a good show and I can use a few laughs, carry on!

          July 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
        • Hendronicus

          Your racist hate has rendered you stupid.

          July 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
      • Jdevil1735

        Obama admits to being a cokehead and doing numerous drugs – and you want to really attack Bush on his college days?

        July 19, 2012 at 2:29 am |
        • Pandas Eat Bush & Leaves

          Absolutely. Hypocrisy should be attacked from every angle.

          July 19, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Fed Up

      It's actually thanks to the "You Tube" voters as I call them... stupid kids who thought they'd make some sort of statement and elect Obama; and, the other group is the "Guilty Soccer Moms" type – those who identify with the Hilly Holbrook crowd in movies like "The Help" and feel they need to right some sort of 1950's wrong, so Obama was their salvation.

      July 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        Umm, NO. It's that the part of America using their BRAINS saw the GoTP nominate Palin, and fled at top speed.
        Seriously, you jokers OWN that mistake. Man up, admit it, and learn from it!

        July 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Big Gey Al

      No, actually it was McCain's VP pick that lost him the election.

      July 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
      • Solo

        Yes, Palin was a rushed and ruining choice.

        July 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Fred Freddly

      Ad hominem. Look it up. It's under logical fallacies.

      July 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  18. Beef-N-Ator

    Silly Donkey's...It was Bush's fault. Yankee's can't BBQ worth a Dang, anyway.

    July 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Southerner

      Completely agree. I've been to Blue Smoke and the BBQ is terrible. Plus, they are more interested in their wine list than anything else. Wine list at a BBQ joint? You're so HIP New York!!!

      July 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Hendronicus

      The story is from 1860, genius.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  19. PandoraDoggl

    Gotham is Chicago.

    July 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Matt

      Gotham is New York. The filmed the latest movies in Chicago.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Seriously, no. "Gotham" is NYC.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Scott


      July 19, 2012 at 3:49 am |
  20. Joe Mama

    The riot started when the people thought Mitt was releasing 12 years of tax returns. They grabbed chunks of the cooked flesh, but it was all fat and grizzle. No real meat.

    July 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Al

      Good one. Wonder if Obama will ever release his collage transcripts.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
      • clevercandi

        If he does, Al, one would hope they know how to spell "college" :)

        July 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
        • JellyBean@clevercandi

          LOL! "collage transcripts" Still laughing at your reply!

          July 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
        • Pendy

          Glad to see you get the point, Miss Grammar Police.

          July 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
      • Hogan's Goat

        "Collage" transcripts? You mean his eighth grade art projects, Einstein?

        July 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        Why? How many Presidents before have released theirs?

        July 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  21. Jay G

    Ummmm. Can I have my 30 seconds back? What the hell was the point of this piece?

    July 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  22. Dan

    Where is the story about Obama's fake birth certificate?

    July 18, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • slewatha

      Right under the one about Romney's multiple wives

      July 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
      • Hogan's Goat

        As long as his other two wives stay in Mexico, who cares?

        July 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • JCAZ

      Check out AZCentral. Arpaio has not beaten the birther issue enough, he's at it again.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Oh, that's on Faux News. Better hurry on over there and fap to it.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  23. JellyBean

    Great read, thanks!

    July 18, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  24. Hogan's Goat

    No surprise; yankees can't barbecue worth a flip.

    July 18, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • bczu

      I agree to a certain extent. Much better BBQ in the south. But it sounds liek a lot of us are better then the fool mentioned in this article.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
      • Hogan's Goat

        Actually, I'd sooner eat NJ BBQ than that vinegar stuff they like in the Carolinas, so it's all a matter of taste. One man's meat is another man's poison, etc.

        July 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
        • angrybabykitty

          I'm in the Carolinas and don't like the BBQ at all. I prefer Texas or Kansas City.

          July 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
        • Burp

          Texas, ok. Kansas, ok. They don't know real BBQ up north, absolute best BBQ is in Georgia. We don't do Carolina vinegar mess down here. No I won't share my recipe.

          July 19, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
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