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.
All barbecue fans have their favorite off-the-beaten-path barbecue restaurants, and there are plenty of legendary joints with a sufficient reputation for pilgrims to drive hundreds of miles to seek them out. But what about when you’re zipping down a lonely highway far from home and top a hill and spot an unfamiliar “BBQ” sign? Is it worth stopping and risking a precious meal, when you only have between three to five per day to spend? What if just ten miles down the road there’s an even more worthy contender? These sorts of decisions can drive a barbecue nut to acid stomach and night terrors.
Editor's note: This piece was originally published in the Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy Foodletter #42, December 2011. Today's installment comes courtesy of Kat Kinsman, managing editor of CNN Eatocracy.
Several stories above Manhattan's Central Park, there hangs a three-Michelin-starred, monstrously expensive restaurant that an awful lot of people think is perfect. I may have thought that, too, at one point, but I know it's not, because I've been to the K&W Cafeteria.
Actually, I'm going to back that up and admit out loud in public that I have in fact boarded a plane, rented a hotel room, and stayed overnight in a city several states away for the express purpose of sitting down with a groaning tray of K&W chicken livers, fried okra, collard greens, and vegetable congeal and eating my greedy head off.
Editor's note: This piece - a little-known lesson in African American drinkways - was originally delivered as a presentation at the 2008 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium on the Liquid South. It was later printed in Cornbread Nation 5. Today's installment comes courtesy of John Simpkins, Fellow of Comparative Constitutional Law at the Charleston School of Law.
I've been black since birth. I'm not sure how long I've been a Jew. "You're the only black person I know who can quote Woody Allen movies," said my Jewish friend, Peter, when I asked him to assess my Jewishness. "I only quote from the early good ones," I explained. "And those I love. In fact, love is too weak a word for what I feel. I more than love them. I 'lurve' them."
"Sammy Davis Jr. was your favorite member of the Rat Pack," Peter continued, pressing his case. "You even sent your three-year-old to summer camp at the Jewish Community Center. He recognizes the Israeli flag, can sing the dreidel song, and is constantly asking for challah. If you're not Jewish, Jonah certainly is."
The proper use of the word "barbecue" is a topic that stirs regional passions. Folks from northern climes think nothing of saying, "Come over this afternoon and we'll barbecue some brats."
Such a usage jars the ears of Southerners and can launch them into long speechifying on how barbecue is a noun, not a verb, and that you can only create such a noun by slow-roasting meat on a wood-fired pit.
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.
Today's barbecue joints tend to serve just one or two kinds of meats, with pork predominate in the Carolinas and Georgia and beef the star out in Texas and Kansas City. Not so in the old days.
Back when barbecues were large-scale community affairs, the meat served was whatever people had on hand and could donate to the cause. Lists like the following, from a description of an 1868 barbecue in Spartanburg, South Carolina, were par for the course: "beef, mutton, pork, and fowls were provided in superabundance."
Two different Brunswick Counties - one in Georgia and one in Virginia - claim to have originated the famous stew. The Georgia case includes a very physical piece of evidence: a historical monument outside the town of Brunswick with a 25-gallon iron pot on a stone base bearing the inscription: "In this pot the first Brunswick Stew was made on St. Simon Isle, July 2, 1898."
Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs, writers and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area. He blogs at Afroculinaria.com and thecookinggene.com. As the originator of the Cooking Gene Project, he seeks to trace his ancestry through food.
Edward Booker, Hattie Bellamy and Washington Twitty didn’t know what an organic farm was, but nearly everything they ate was organic. They enjoyed wild caught, sustainable fish; they were no strangers to free range chickens, and they ate with the seasons with almost nothing originating more than a mile or two away from their cabin door. They had gardens, composted, and ate no processed foods. Their food was fairly simple, often meatless; and it was a fusion cuisine, with ingredients drawn from five continents.
They were not culinary revolutionaries living out of the foodie playbook - they were three enslaved individuals living among the over 4 million held in bondage before the Civil War, and they were my ancestors.
In the upcoming months I will return to the fields, forests and waterways of the Old South in search of my culinary version of Roots, tracing my family tree through food from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom. The project is called The Cooking Gene: Southern Discomfort Tour.
Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes tackling English toffee, sharing people-pleasin' pizza dip and green soup, cajoling recipes from athletes and studying up on food holidays.
It’s the cookbook we don’t have to pull off the shelf, because it’s already open on the counter, turned to the beginnings of the next awe-inspiring meal.
It is also the book that provides the Augusta hostess with a week of recipes for the Masters Tournament. But for golfers, restaurants, resorts and families all across Georgia, it’s a scrapbook of the dishes that bookmark our lives.
In January 1988, my Aunt Edna gifted Mom with the green, plastic spiral comb-bound cookbook compiled by the Junior League of Augusta, Georgia, in 1977, creatively titled “Tea-Time at the Masters.” My mother not only rediscovered her favorite squash casserole within its pages (once thought lost forever), but recipes to start and build a family with - apropos, because I was born just a few months later in April.