Saturday, June 30

Okracast: Douglas Oliver of Sweatman's Bar-B-Que in Holly Hill, SC



Douglas Oliver, Sweatman's Bar-B-Que, 2012. Photo by Denny Culbert

This month's okracast is hot off the pit! Just a few weeks ago, Rien Fertel recorded this oral history with Douglas Oliver of Sweatman's Bar-B-Que in Holly Hill, SC.

"After two decades of smoking whole hogs for the people of Holly Hill, South Carolina, Harold 'Bub' Sweatman built his eponymous brick-and-mortar joint in 1977" writes Rien Fertel. "Douglas Oliver, who grew up on a farm down the road, started working at Sweatman's not long after it opened. Hired as a meat-cutter, Oliver trained under legendary pitmaster Chalmon Smalls. This interview with Oliver was taped on a late Thursday evening when the pit veteran works from mid-afternoon til just after sunrise. Between firing the hogs with oak and hickory coals every thirty-five minutes, he enjoys the night's bucolic silence. 'This is what I like,' he tells me, 'Quiet.'"

Look for the SFA's South Carolina collection of barbecue oral histories to appear on the Southern BBQ Trail website later this summer.

Grab some headphones and go!




Thursday, June 28

Feed Yourself; Feed the Piggy Bank

We're proud to announce Piggy Bank Dinners, a new series of SFA fundraisers hosted by chef Eddie Hernandez and the good folks at Taqueria del Sol. The Piggy Bank kickoff takes place on Sunday, July 15, at the Cheshire Bridge Rd. location of Taqueria del Sol in Atlanta and features guest chefs Jason Alley (of Pasture and Comfort in Richmond, VA) and David Guas (of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA). Tickets are $75 for a six-course dinner with beer pairings. Visit the Piggy Bank website for more details and to purchase tickets. Feed yourself, bring your friends, feed our piggy bank—everybody wins!

Wednesday, June 27

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

Pork rinds are deep fried and packed in plastic zipper bags for sale at Scott's BBQ in Hemingway, SC.
Photo by Denny Culbert. Click to enlarge.


Tuesday, June 26

Some Thoughts on Barbecue and Love

From the sauce-splattered keyboard of guest blogger Adrian Miller. 


Dearly beloved, we are gathered in this post to celebrate the union of love and barbecue.

With the summer wedding season in full swing, love is in the air—and it is increasingly followed by the perfume of burning wood and smoking meat. Once confined to the South, more and more wedding rehearsal dinners and receptions across the country feature a barbecue-laden feast. Recently, as I was leaving his son's wedding, a Colorado barbecue man—by way of Opelousas, Louisiana—gave me a parting gift of some alligator meat to smoke.

Some couples go whole hog for efficiency by holding their ceremony and reception at a barbecue restaurant. Texans seem to do this the most.

Photo courtesy of Soozums (Flickr).

Aside from these examples, which suggest barbecue as love ex post facto, but how does barbecue spark love? Ophelia Pinkard Taylor, in her 1984 oral history of the Juneteenth holiday in Texas, offered this: "Tradition has it that no maker of a good barbecue sauce will give the recipe to outsiders (those who are not family members). It has been noted that marriages are arranged so that the recipe can be passed on to a family seeking it." I leave you to decide whether such counts as a shotgun wedding.

-Adrian Miller

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

Roosevelt "Rosie" Scott (far right) sits on a pew in front of Scott's Variety, the store he opened in 1972 in Hemingway, South Carolina. His son Rodney now owns and operates the store as Scott's BBQ.

Photo by Denny Culbert. Click to enlarge.

Click here to watch (or re-watch) CUT/CHOP/COOK, Joe York's film about Rodney Scott.

The Cornbread Nation 6 Book Club

Last month, the University of Georgia Press released Cornbread Nation 6: The Best of Southern Food Writing, edited by Brett Anderson.

In July (meaning NEXT WEEK), we'll launch the Cornbread Nation book club. Regular blog posts will explore the articles and contributors, and we invite you to join the discussion on our Facebook page.

This means you have until Monday to arm yourself with a copy of CN6. We dig local bookstores ourselves; don't you?

We know at least one twelve-year-old who's slogging through Lord of the Flies for his summer reading. Though CN6 also features its share of Piggy, the Cornbread Nation book club promises to be a lot more fun—and a lot less macabre.

The Origin Myth(s) of Brunswick Stew

From the sauce-splattered keyboard of guest blogger Robert Moss. 

 Last week I wrote about hash, the classic South Carolina barbecue side dish, so it seems only fitting this week to address Brunswick Stew, the staple side of North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.

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."

It's a nice touch, but by 1898, Brunswick stew had been served in Virginia for over half a century. It appears in newspaper accounts of Virginia barbecues as far back as 1849, when the Alexandria Gazette described it as "a genuine South-side dish, composed of squirrels, chicken, a little bacon, and corn and tomatoes, ad libitum."

Brunswick stew at a Georgia barbecue, 1898. Photo from Strand magazine.

Brunswick stew seems to have been created in the 1820s by James Matthews, a noted squirrel hunter (what a distinction!) in Brunswick County, VA. Matthews cooked his squirrels in water with bacon and onions until the flesh separated from the bones, which he skimmed out before finishing the stew with butter and breadcrumbs. After his death, Matthews was succeeded by a series of local stew masters, and over time they added tomato, onion, corn, and potatoes to the recipe. By the 1840s the stew was being served at barbecues throughout the state. It soon snuck into North Carolina and, eventually, to Georgia.

Sorry, Peach State. History is on the side of the Virginians on this one.

-Robert Moss

Monday, June 25

It's Pot-Stirring Time Again

Tickets are on sale for the next helping of Stir the Pot in Raleigh, NC. On July 29 and 30, Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner hosts guest chef/pitmaster Pat Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville, Tennessee.

Martin is known for his whole-hog barbecue, smoked in keeping with Tennessee tradition. He is also a member of the Fatback Collective.

Stir the Pot is a fundraising series in Raleigh and Nashville benefiting the SFA's documentary initiatives. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

We'll see you there!

Thursday, June 21

Did Someone Say "Field Trip"?

Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina, where we are kicking off our High on the Hog Eastern Carolina Field Trip this evening. Tomorrow, we'll head down east to sample the best the state has to offer, from whole-hog barbecue and all our favorite sides to fish muddle and crab stew. We'll try to keep you updated here on the blog, but sometimes laptops and pit-smoke just don't mix. (Smartphones, however, LOVE to get a little smoky.) For all of the up-to-the-minute porcine details, follow us on Twitter @potlikker and look for the hashtag #SFABBQ. 

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

The all-you-can-eat buffet at Brown's Barbecue in Kingstree, South Carolina, includes everything from barbecue and hash to sweet corn and squash. The vegetables come straight from the Brown family's farm.
Photograph by Denny Culbert. 
 

Wednesday, June 20

SFA Talks Race, Ethnicity, and Food as part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute's Summer Teachers' Seminar

Gilder Lehrman Institute group outside Abe's Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale, MS

Teachers from across the country are in Oxford this week to study race and ethnicity in the modern South through a program of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. This one-week seminar is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and each day is dedicated to a different theme. Yesterday's seminar theme: foodways.

Chafik Chamoun of Chamoun's Rest Haven in Clarksdale speaks to the group

SFA Oral Historian Amy Evans Streeter spent all day with the group. The morning session was spent in the classroom, where Amy introduced participants to relevant interviews from our oral history archive, as well as various techniques relating to the collection of fieldwork. For the afternoon session the group traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where participants visited two locations profiled in our Delta Lebanese oral history project, Abe's Bar-B-Q and Chamoun's Rest Haven, as well as the Delta Blues Museum. At Abe's, the group was introduced to the history of hot tamales in the Delta and many enjoyed their first-ever tamale. During their visit to the Delta Blues Museum, the group explored the relationship between food and music. And at Chamoun's Rest Haven, they enjoyed plates of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and slices of chocolate or coconut meringue pie, while listening to Chafik Chamoun tell of the days when Clarksdale was known as Little Lebanon.

A chocolate meringue pie at Chamoun's Rest Haven


Visit the Gilder Lehrman Institute's website for more information on the organization and its programs.

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

Angle of repose: The barbecue sandwich at Cooper's Country Store on Highway 521 in Salters, South Carolina. Photo by Denny Culbert.


Smoke and Mirrors: Against the Whitewashing of Barbecue


From the sauce-stained keyboard of Adrian Miller, guest barbecue blogger. 

The coming and passing of National Barbecue Month (commonly called "May" by others) tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's the month when a lot of media outlets (magazines, newspapers, and television) remind us that barbecue season has officially begun. They mark the occasion by profiling notable pitmasters, sharing recipes and tips, and, as a bonus, providing a roundup of the best barbecue joints in your area or in the entire country. What's regularly missing in these features are shout-outs to African Americans. Such omissions are troubling given the overwhelming contribution that African Americans have made, and continue to make, to the American barbecue tradition. Like good barbecue, my annoyance over this subject has been burning like a slow fire, and it hit a flashpoint last year. The Food Network aired Best in Smoke—a barbecue competition show that featured six contestants, six assistants, one host, three judges...and no black people. Think I'm hypersensitive? Then imagine watching a country music special that only featured interviews with Charley Pride and Darius Rucker. Wouldn't you think there was something wrong with that picture?



In contrast to mass media outlets like the Food Network, the SFA's oral history and documentary film initiatives have paid homage to many African-American pitmasters. Check out CUT/CHOP/COOK, a film by Joe York about Rodney Scott of Hemingway, South Carolina. And explore the oral history interviews on the Southern BBQ Trail. Many of them feature African American subjects, from Helen Turner of Tennessee (pictured above) to Gerri and Stephen Grady of North Carolina (and over a dozen more).

-Adrian Miller
You can follow Adrian Miller on Twitter at @soulfoodscholar.

Tuesday, June 19

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

A pitcher of sweet tea waits for diners on every table in Duke's Bar-B-Q, Orangeburg, South Carolina. Photo by Denny Culbert.


Monday, June 18

Hashing It Out

From the sauce-splattered keyboard of guest blogger Robert Moss. 


A few days ago, I got an email from an SFA staffer in which she admitted that, having grown up eating Brunswick stew in North Carolina, she knew almost nothing about South Carolina hash and rice. This, clearly, is a deficiency that requires addressing, and suddenly I had the topic for my first guest post.

Hash is one of those things that, like yellow mustard–based sauce, puzzles outsiders when they first sample South Carolina barbecue. A cross between a meat stew and a gravy, it's the Palmetto State's classic side dish, and it's almost always served over a bed of white rice.



You shouldn't inquire too closely as to what goes in the hash pot, but suffice it to say it's an economical way to use up most of a hog. Various pig parts (especially the livers and often the heads) are simmered with onions, potatoes, and spices till they merge into a single thick, consistent substance that's savory and delicious. Some flavor it with tomatoes or ketchup, giving it a reddish hue, while others use mustard to tinge it yellow.

Hash originated prior to the Civil War in the counties on either side of the Savannah River in South Carolina and Georgia. Estrella Jones, who was born into slavery on Powers Pond Place near Augusta, GA, recalled that when she was a child, the men would sometimes steal hogs from other plantations and "cook hash and rice and serve barbecue."

At the opening of the Civil War, a feast was held to honor the Edgefield (County, SC) Riflemen as they prepared to leave for battle. The menu included "barbecued meats and hash."

By the 1880s, hash was being served as far north as Newberry, SC, and as far south as Macon in central Georgia. Today, hash has all but disappeared in Georgia, which has become Brunswick stew territory. It continues to reign supreme as South Carolina's barbecue accompaniment of choice.

For a closer look at the hash tradition in South Carolina, check out Stan Woodward's 2008 documentary Carolina Hash.

-Robert Moss
You can follow Robert on Twitter at @mossr.

Postcard from the Southern BBQ Trail

The fire heats up as the sun goes down and cooking begins at Sweatman's Bar-b-que in Holly Hill, South Carolina. Photograph by Denny Culbert.


The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat

Former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman takes a turn as a book reviewer, assessing The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance by Thomas McNamee. The verdict? Richman digested the biography with pleasure.

Our own exhibit about Claiborne's life, career, and influence is currently on display in the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi. Contact us if you'd like the exhibit to come to your town in the fall.

Friday, June 15

Another Helping from the Barbecue Bus

Earlier this week, Rien Fertel and Denny Culbert (also known as The Barbecue Bus) visited Midway BBQ in Buffalo, South Carolina, to conduct an oral history for the SFA's Southern BBQ Trail. In the kitchen they met Put Temmerath, a Laotian-American cook who's been working at Midway for sixteen years. Rien recorded a brief interview with Temmerath, which you can listen to here. Thus far, Temmerath is the only individual on our Barbecue Trail to have escaped war-torn Southeast Asia in the 1970s and rebuilt his life in South Carolina. Lives like Mr. Temmerath's are exactly why we collect, preserve, and share the stories behind the food.

Photo of Put Temmerath by Denny Culbert


Thursday, June 14

Follow the Golden Rule


Golden Rule Bar-B-Q, Irondale, AL (original location)
(Click the link above to read the SFA's oral history with Michael Matsos, part of the Southern BBQ Trail.)

When Michael Matsos agreed to take over Irondale, Alabama's Golden Rule Bar-B-Q from previous owner Jabo Stone in 1969, he was doing more than just keeping the doors of another barbecue joint open. He was continuing an Alabama tradition dating back to 1891. Not only that, Matsos was undertaking a new culinary venture: Though he had fine-dining experience, he had never tried his hand at barbecue.

Photo of Michael Matsos by Amy Evans Streeter, 2006
"I used to go to the Golden Rule, and I loved their barbecue sandwich—the way he did it and everything, and the sauce," Matsos said in a 2006 oral history with SFA oral historian Amy Evans Streeter. "[Stone] knew I used to come out there and then he kept after me about taking over the business, and I told him I was a steak[house] operator. I didn't know anything about barbecue back then. But I learned quickly, watching him."

"The original Golden Rule opened when it was a dirt road, in 1891, and then the road eventually became US 78 going to Atlanta. I think it moved about four or five times. But where we're located now—we moved over here about thirty years ago."

There are over twenty Golden Rule franchises across the South now, but the retaurant's long history has remained a part of its expansion. Matsos tried to place one of the restaurant's more seasoned employees in each new franchise. They also expanded their sauce repertoire, offering the original recipe alongside sub-regional variations specific to each chain location. In 2009, he and his son sold most of the franchises to a Florida-based management outfit, but they retained ownership of the original Irondale location.

Sadly, Michael Matsos passed away in January 2012. His son, Charles, now runs the Irondale Golden Rule.

If you go: The original Golden Rule Bar-B-Q is located at 2504 Crestwood Boulevard in Irondale, AL, a few miles east of downtown Birmingham.

—Susie Penman

Beyond Pork in North Carolina


Next week, we'll embark on our annual SFA Field Trip. This summer we're heading to Eastern North Carolina for—you guessed it—barbecue, among other local delights. One of our speakers will be historian and folklorist David Cecelski, an Eastern North Carolina native who writes a food blog for the North Carolina Folk Life Institute. Either Cecelski has a sixth sense, or his car's steering wheel is actually a divining rod, because he's a pro at venturing off the beaten path to taste and tell the stories of North Carolina's unsung foodways. He's found an Ecuadorian bakery in Raleigh and an international food market in a converted Greensboro textile factory.



When it comes to barbecue, Cecelski's latest discovery is the micro-trend of African-American owned barbecue establishments that have begun using turkey in lieu of pork for a variety of reasons—from concerns about cardiac health to accommodating a growing Islamic clientele. Click here  for the full text of Cecelski's dispatch on turkey barbecue, which he suggests you try at Hickory Tree BBQ in Greensboro or Lenny and VC's Grill in Dover (conveniently located near Kinston, one of our Field Trip stops).

Wednesday, June 13

B's Barbecue: The Early Bird Gets the 'Cue


B's Barbecue, Greenville, NC
(Click the link above to read the SFA's oral history with Judy Drach of B's, part of the Southern BBQ Trail) 

Judy Drach has watched her hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, grow up around her. Roads have widened, hospitals have expanded, the number of students at East Carolina University has increased, and many of the buildings she remembers from her childhood have been torn down and the lots re-developed.

But at B's Barbecue, which she runs with her two sisters, Tammy and Donna, not much has changed in the forty-odd years since it opened. They still cook whole-hog barbecue. That barbecue still sells out every day. The sauce that founder William "Bill" McLawhorn (Judy's father) perfected is still a closely guarded family secret. And B's has never had a telephone.

Arthur House takes the day's first pig off the pit behind B's. Photo by Alan Pike, 2009. 
"We've been really blessed by it, and never would have thought—never in a million years," that the restaurant would be so successful, Judy told the SFA in a 2009 oral history. "You know, my dad started to open it, and my mom was like, oh Lord, here we go again. She thought it was just an idea that would fall by the wayside. But it's really done well by us—all of us."

"We have a lot of people that come in and they've heard rumors that we're going to close, that the highway is going to mow right over us, that kind of thing. They say, 'Do you need me to call somebody? Do you need me to go stand on the courthouse steps?' And you know, I really think they would." 

Judy credits that dedication in part to B's atmosphere. "It's not many places you can go where you can just go and sit next to a man in a three-piece suit that you've never met before or sit next to a family or a farmer or a college student and get to meet them and eat with them. So it's like when they come in here, they are family. They just mingle together, and it means a lot to us."

If you go: B's is located at 751 B's Barbecue Road in Greenville, NC. It is closed on Sundays. If you're coming from out of town, plan on an early lunch, or even a late (but heavy) breakfast—on a busy day, the barbecue can be gone by noon. Many B's devotees swear by the chicken, arguing that it's just as good as the chopped pork.

-Susie Penman

Tuesday, June 12

Hot Links, vol 1, issue 1


We're not the only ones with 'cue on the brain—maybe it has something to do with last weekend's Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

-Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice rhapsodizes over the five best things he ate at this year's Block Party.

-Serious Eats: New York also deconstructs the Block Party, concluding that the barbecue at this year's event was well worth the lines.

-Meanwhile, some 1600 miles away, Foodways Texas held its 2nd annual Barbecue Summer Camp.  Zen BBQ has the recap.

-Zagat asks, "So You Wanna Be a Pitmaster?" and offers lessons from seven senseis of smoke. For even more advice and stories, take a ride on our Southern Barbecue Trail, which offers oral histories with 85 pitmasters and -mistresses and counting.


The Barbecue Bus Rolls Again


Last winter, oral historian Rien Fertel and photographer Denny Culbert traversed the state of North Carolina in an RV they dubbed "The Barbecue Bus," documenting the stories behind North Carolina's iconic barbecue joints for the SFA's oral history program.
As of yesterday, they are back on the road, this time in South Carolina. You can follow their adventures here at the Barbecue Bus blog and on Twitter at @TheBarbecueBus.

Rien writes, "Our BBQ Trail itinerary will carry us through Upstate, the Lowlands, and Midlands of South Carolina. We'll cover barbecue houses in all of South Carolina's sauce-varietal regions, from the mustard belt that extends from the state's center toward Charleston, to the peppery vinegar country of the north-east coast, to the western tomato-based hinterlands. Additionally, we'll explore the state's diverse barbecue accoutrements, including hash, chicken stew, vegetable side-dishes, and desserts."

After their pork-fueled tour of the Palmetto State, the boys will join us in eastern North Carolina for our annual summer Field Trip, which will focus on—what else?—barbecue. (Oh, and some crab stew, and fried chicken, and collard greens, and lemon pie with a saltine-cracker crust...)

Meet the Barbecue Research Team


As you might imagine, our oral history archives are laden with barbecue content that we're eager to share with you, our readers. During the spring semester, we were lucky to have two graduate student research assistants to help us unearth the choicest nuggets of barbecue history and lore from the Southern Barbecue Trail. Meet Susie Penman and Roy Button.
Native Mississippian Susie Penman (pictured above at Central BBQ in Memphis) just received her degree from the MA Program in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. Her thesis, "Cracker Barrel's Culture: Exporting the South on America's Interstate Exits" was a co-winner of the Lucille and Motee Daniels award for the best thesis in Southern Studies.

By way of a barbecue-themed introduction, Susie says, "Despite growing up in a family for whom the term 'barbecue' meant "to grill," I found myself working a part-time job at the counter of a beloved Jackson, Mississippi, barbecue joint. It was there that I discovered pulled pork, though I overindulged and some desolate years passed before I was able to appreciate barbecue again. Now my favorite local barbecue is B's in Oxford, where the barbecue chicken is so good that I risk overdoing it on that, too. But I don't think it's going to happen."

San Francisco native Roy Button just finished his first year in the Southern Studies MA program. He tells us, "My barbecue of choice is Kansas City–style, which is prevalent in California. Tri-tip is also common in the Northern part of the state, where I'm from. I once ate an entire rack of ribs AND a barbecue sandwich at the Rendezvous in Memphis. It was my first time there—I had to make the most of it. Like Susie, my favorite barbecue in Oxford is B's in the Skymart BP station. I usually order a barbecue sandwich or the smoked turkey leg."

A big thanks to Roy and Susie for their crack research skills. We couldn't have gotten ready for the Summer of Barbecue without them!

Monday, June 11

A spoonful of Gravy...with Barbecue Sauce

 Issue #44 of our Gravy foodletter—The Gravy Barbecue Sandwich Issue—is hot off the press. If you are an SFA member, Gravy is on its way to a mailbox near you. (As in, the one in front of your house.) Here's a little taste of what's inside.


Pleasantly Lumpy Barbecue Sauce
by Hugh Acheson
  
Acheson says, "This is a sauce to have in a mason jar, and not in a squeeze bottle. It's lumpy. That's good. Spoon it out onto your pulled 'cue. Taste the goodness and be happy with the rowdy friend we have in vinegar."

1 tablespoon bacon fat
1/4 minced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup cored, seeded, and finely diced tomato
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground allspice (about 6 berries) 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red chile flake
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 tablespoon sorghum molasses or honey
1/2 cup Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water



In a heavy sauce-pot, like enameled cast-iron, heat the bacon fat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cooking for 5 minutes to a pap consistency. Season with the salt and then add the allspice, Worcestershire, chile flakes, and honey. Cook down for 5 minutes until the tomatoes look like tomato sauce. Add the vinegar and water and cook for 30 minutes. Cool and pulse in the blender.

Hugh Acheson is the chef of 5&10 in Athens, Georgia, and the author of A New Turn in the South.

Meet Adrian Miller, Barbecue Guest Blogger


Name: Adrian Miller

Home Base: Denver, Colorado

Occupations: Writer, speaker, and political campaign manager. Adrian is a recovering lawyer, a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton, and a former deputy legislative director and senior policy analyst for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. He has a book on the history of soul food forthcoming from UNC Press in 2013.



Barbecue Street Cred: "My first job was in a barbecue joint: Luther's BBQ in Aurora, Colorado. I didn't tend the pits, but I was responsible for cleaning up the remains of the day (a fancy way of saying I was a busboy). In 2004, I became a certified barbecue judge with the Kansas City Barbecue Society." 

Preferred Style of Barbecue: "I am a devotee of the Kansas City style overall," says Adrian. "But the Memphis and Central Texas styles are making an increasingly strong play for my affection."

Triumphant Barbecue Moment: "The three-day SFA Field Trip to Austin, Texas, in 2002. The barbecue was a revelation, and it was one of the happiest times of my life."
[Editor's note: Adrian offered this triumphant moment completely unprompted. Really.]

Check back for Adrian's weekly dispatches, which will focus on African American and Native American barbecue traditions.

Meet Robert Moss, Barbecue Guest Blogger


Name: Robert F. Moss

Home Base: Charleston, South Carolina



Barbecue Street Cred: Robert is the author of Barbecue: The History of an American Institution (U. of Alabama Press, 2010), the first full-length history of barbecue in the United States. When he's not stuffing himself with pulled pork and hash-and-rice, he also writes restaurant reviews and food-related features for the Charleston City Paper.

Preferred Style of Barbecue: People tend to be loyal to the barbecue style they knew growing up. But over the course of a decade of historical barbecue research, Robert has become something of a regional ecumenicist, savoring the virtue inherent in all of America's great regional styles. "But," he says, "I do have a particular fondness for barbecue from the North Carolina Piedmont, as well as the unique mustard-based sauce of the South Carolina midlands. And that white stuff from Alabama is just weird."

Favorite Barbecue Accoutrements: South Carolina hash-and-rice, hushpuppies, coleslaw (the finely chopped kind), burnt ends from Kansas City—and banana pudding, of course.

Triumphant Barbecue Moment: "A few years ago, my family drove all the way out to Moose's Famous Barbecue in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, which has a very respectable barbecue line-up with everything from pulled pork to thin-sliced brisket. My older son, Bobby, then eight years old, proceeded to put a hurting on the buffet, tucking away three full plates and then following it up with not one but two heaping bowls of Mrs. Moose's pecan banana pudding. We were on the road for three minutes before he fell asleep in the backseat, and he snored all the way home. It was a touching moment: a young pup laid low by barbecue for the first time. If his father's track record is any indication, it won't be the last."

Check back for Robert's weekly dispatches from South Carolina and beyond.

Welcome to the SFA's Summer of Barbecue


We hope your summer plans include plenty of opportunities to eat barbecue. Maybe you've got a favorite local spot, or perhaps you're the type to drive 100 miles out of your way to try a hole-in-the-wall you've never been to before. Either way, this blog is for you.

Or maybe you think that barbecue is overrated. That it's played out. That you enjoy it once in a while, but you're not interested in reading the same, tired barbecue stories that fill the pages of food and travel magazines every summer. This blog is for you.

You're a Texan, a lover of brisket. Or a native of eastern North Carolina, a disciple of vinegar-sauced pulled pork. Or a Alabamian with a taste for the peculiar white sauce endemic to the northern part of that state. This blog is for you.

In 2002, the SFA celebrated barbecue for the first time, capped off by a symposium entitled "Barbecue: Smoke, Sauce, and History." Ten years, later, we're revisiting the iconic Southern food and its associated characters, rituals, and accoutrements. We're honoring the pitmasters who smoke their meat low and slow over real wood. The cooks who assemble the Brunswick stew, the coleslaw, the icebox pies. And the animals themselves: pigs, in particular, and the farmers who raise them.

All summer and into the fall, leading up to our 2012 barbecue symposium, we'll be filling this blog with all the barbecue news (and history) that's fit to print. We've invited a few all-star guest bloggers to join us in this endeavor, and we will introduce you to them in the coming days. We'll unearth deep cuts from our oral history archives. And that's just the beginning.

We will continue to blog about other topics, including the Friday Southern Six-Pack, a reader favorite. And in July, we'll launch the Cornbread Nation 6 Book Club (you've got three weeks to go buy yourself a copy). But most of all, we've got barbecue on the brain, and we want to share it with you. Pull up a seat at the table and get ready. 

Photograph by Denny Culbert.