This is the seventh installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
Last week, I found myself hanging out with five whole hogs, three briskets and a whole lot of barbecue legends (and their faithful disciples) near some fire pits in freezing cold Murphysboro, Illinois. We'd congregated there for the second annual Whole Hog Extravaganza and BBQ MBA program, and when I wasn't stuffing my mouth with some of the best pork and brisket on the planet, I was slamming it shut and soaking up what these venerable pitmasters had to say.
Here's a taste.
The world lost an important teacher, poet and excellent, barbecue-loving soul this weekend in the form of Jake Adam York. He passed away at the age of 40 from the effects of a massive stroke, and we can't help but think about having heard him read his stunning work in person this past October at the Southern Foodways Alliance annual symposium in Oxford, Mississippi.
No matter who you are or where you live, rituals are an intrinsic element to human life. Whether they’re based in religion, home, work, the kitchen or elsewhere, people rely on rituals to bring rhythm and order to their lives. They are the place where tradition and superstition intersect, and this is as much the case with tailgating as with any other ritual I can think of.
There is not a more superstitious group of people than sports fans who typically develop their own rituals and turn to traditions to assist them in helping carry their team to victory. Arguably, the cornerstone of every tailgating ritual is the food.
At the best tailgates, preparing the food is as important as the act of eating itself. Because my friends and I at Jim ‘N Nick’s love football passionately (Roll Tide!), we tailgate often - and it almost always involves barbecue. At a recent tailgate, someone asked me, "What is it about barbecue that lends itself so perfectly to the circumstance?"
Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. We've been sharing dispatches live from their 15th annual Symposium "Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmaster, Places, Smoke, and Sauce" in Oxford, Mississippi, over the past few days. Dig in.
North Carolina writer Randall Kenan delivers the opening keynote address at the 2012 SFA symposium, a literary meditation on the importance of the hog in Southern culture. Kenan is introduced by Ted Ownby of the University of Mississippi. It's saucy.
Previously - Alton Brown on the science of cooking whole hogs
Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. We'll be sharing dispatches from their 15th annual Symposium "Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmaster, Places, Smoke, and Sauce" over the nest few days. Dig in.
Kentuckians have barbecued on a grand scale since our land became a state in 1792, and that tradition continues today with such massive events as the annual political picnic at Fancy Farm (where in 2011 the team at St. Jerome Catholic Church cooked 19,000 pounds of pork and mutton), and at Owensboro’ s International Bar-B-Q Festival, a charity event where cooks stir 75-gallon cauldrons of burgoo and tend open pits groaning with mutton quarters and whole chickens.
Did pirates barbecue? Arrrrgh, of course they did, though the barbecuing may actually have come before the buccaneering.
Around 1630, the small island of Tortuga off the northwestern coast of Hispaniola (today, the Dominican Republic and Haiti) became a haven for a motley lot of vagabonds and refugees - deserters, escaped slaves, and shipwrecked sailors of all nationalities. They would sneak over to Hispaniola to hunt the wild cattle and pigs that roamed the sparsely populated coast, taking whatever they bagged back to Tortuga to avoid the local authorities.
These hunters discovered they could sell dried meat, hides, and lard to planters and ship captains, and soon they became known as “boucaniers.” The term derived from the Tupi word boucan, meaning a grate on which meat was slowly cured over a small fire. The hunters of Tortuga used such grates to dry their meat for sale and to cook feasts for themselves.
Like everything in South Carolina, we cook barbeque cantankerously. We smoke our meat with hundreds of opinions and often with a sense of injured pride. Otherwise, it’s just different in South Carolina - all the way down to the way we spell it, more often with the garish and trashy “q” rather than the upwardly mobile and buttoned-down “c.”
When you mention S.C., people usually want to start a fight about sauces. The whole state is a big messy spill of sauces - there’s at least four of them. As anyone who's driven south on Highway 17 knows, though, that vinegar and spices blend famously found all over eastern North Carolina is really more of a culinary wedge that plunges way down the Carolina shore, down past Scott’s in Hemingway and certainly as far south as Brown’s Bar-B-Que in Kingstree and even further south with the pulled pork at Cooper’s Country Store in Salters.
If you make your way to St. Louis, Missouri, any time soon, ask a local to show you one of their barbecue specialties: snoots. In both editions of the classic guidebook Real Barbecue (1988 and 2007), authors Greg Johnson and Vince Staten put it this way: "First we'd better deal with 'snoots.' Snoots are part of the soul-food barbecue scene in St. Louis that will stare at you at the C & K, as well as any number of other places in town and across the river in East St. Louis. Snoots are deep-fried pig noses."
At Smoki O's, another St. Louis barbecue joint, they smoke their snoots for a couple of hours instead of frying them. Whether boiled, fried, or smoked, snoots get doused with barbecue sauce and are meant to be eaten right away.
Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
Last week, I wrote about one chef’s favorite barbecue spots that managed to become a referendum on the best places to eat BBQ in the country. In came the comments, fast and furious.
I’ve learned a lot this week. For one thing, I now know that I need to take a serious barbecue tour around the United States, namely Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. I also now know that getting a favorite barbecue list from just one person is not a good idea. One last thing I now know is how the NFL replacement officials were feeling.
Enough about me. Let’s hear from you. People shouted out their favorite places in the commentary. These five got the most love and some noteworthy sound bites.