Saturday, September 05, 2015

Alphabet Club: B for Barbecue

They only met online, but it
changed their lives forever
The Alphabet Club is the brainchild of Serendipitous Jo and Chiara of the Grey Tail. You can read about it here, but the short answer is that each month a group of stitchers will talk about words specific to our languages (dialects, regionalisms), often related in some way to our stitching. You're invited.

Barbecue is an American word borrowed from either the Spanish or Haitian barbacoa (my favorite thing at Chipotle, btw). Although many cultures use the word barbecue (or barbeque or bar-b-cue or BBQ) to mean to cook over an open fire (that would be grilling, sweetheart) most Americans (the ones who are right) mean cooking low and slow over smoke.

And the people who do this best are the southerners. (I'm New Hampshire born and raised, New England for generations, but my belly is all southern.) The main styles of barbecue, which vary widely, are from the Carolinas, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas. (There are lesser-known styles.) The dude and I decided, after eating barbecue on our cross-country stop in Memphis, that we should travel to all the major barbecue capitals. Three main things distinguish the difference between the styles: meat, wood, and sauce.
Barbecuing at L.C.'s in KC

(This next part is going to be oversimplified because whole books have been written about American barbecue traditions, and I'm writing a blogpost. Don't hate.)

Memphis-- primarily ribs. These come wet or dry. (Wet is basted with sauce at the beginning and end of, and sometimes during, cooking;  dry is cooked with spice rub.) When we went to Interstate in Memphis, I willingly ate a rib for the first time, and then I got it.

Kansas City--variety of meats, although burnt ends (which I ate every day in KC) are particular to the place; these are the charred ends of brisket (beef or pork). The distinction is the barbecue sauce, which is slathered over the smoked meat and is tomato based with sweet and spicy flavors. Mmmm. FWIW, when the dude and I went to KC, we though LC's had the best sauce. We brought two bottles home with us.

Carolina-- pork; usually oak or hickory; vinegar-based sauce (sometimes mustard-based). Unless you're on the other side of the state, then all bets are off (actually it's a tomato-based sauce with vinegar and pepper). We were on the Eastern side of things when we visited. You can read the report here.

Texas--we haven't been to Texas on the barbecue tour yet. They say there are four main styles of Texas barbecue, but we're going for "East Texas" style the where beef is cooked over hickory wood and marinated in a sweet, tomato-based sauce.

We also have Owensboro, Kentucky on the tour. Their claim to fame is mutton with a vinegar based sauce...and a barbecue festival that's been going since the 70s. 


Linda said...

Interesting post Nikki. My husband barbecues all the time.


cathymk said...

A new world of food was opened to me when I read Michael Pollan's Cooked - the whole first section "fire" was about barbecue as you have described it (rather than the grilling we Aussies seem to do). I remember drooling as I read those chapters, the descriptions of the food were just luscious. We didn't get to experience real barbecue when we were visiting last year (we were in NY and had my vegan friend with us) but it's on the list for the next time I visit the states...

Adrienne Martini said...

I'm pretty sure I could live on Burnt Ends. Maybe not for long, granted, but would die content.

Julie said...

Very interesting post.

jocondine said...

Thanks for inviting us to this Barbecue Tour. We used to call it barbecue too but I love the Qu├ębec word "gril-au-vent" (grill in wind). xxx

Anonymous said...

Yum. That sounds like a tour I could get behind. :)

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Great post. It's a complicated thing this barbecuing. I'm sure none of them would approve of our school PTA who precook and heat up on the BBQs to save time! Or of the fact that they are Calor Gas BBQs and not charcoal.

C in DC said...

There's a new hole-in-the-wall BBQ place here in DC that made me understand the hullabaloo about brisket.

Bea said...

It all sounds delicious. There is no place here that does barbeque, so hopefully one day I can get south or even into the U.S.

Brigitte said...

This whole post makes my mouth water. And makes me think of the ribs that I have eaten several times when being in Saint Louis. And that makes my mouth water even more.
Very interesting Alphabet Club post.

Stitching Noni said...

We Aussie's love our BBQ's! There is nothing better than making a fire, sticking a piece of sheet metal over the flames and throwing on some snags or a steak (or two) and burning it to with an inch of it's life and then smothering it with tomato sauce!! (Or at least that is what an Aussie BBQ used to be... now it is all very fancy pants with state of the art BBQ's...)
Now I'm hungry... loved reading your post! Great choice for "B"
Hugs xx