My Dad On Barbeque [by Katy]

[For three weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit]

Many people like barbeque. Few understand it.

Let’s take an example, shall we? When the Amateur Gourmet visited Bobby and June’s Kountry Kitchen in May, he was surprised to be served a plate of barbequed beef that looked like this:

BBQ_adamsdinner

This is what he had to say about it then:

Looks scary, I know. I’m not used to BBQ like this—when I think BBQ I usually think ribs. This was basically slices of pallid meat dressed up with a meaty BBQ sauce. The sauce itself was great, the meat ok.

Now you all know that I love the Amateur Gourmet dearly, or I never would have given him that kidney, but it makes me sad that he would be surprised by a plate of what looks like classic southeastern barbeque.

Well, not quite classic. He ordered beef. Southeastern barbeque is pork-centric. Probably the most classic dish is pulled pork: with sides, white bread and sweet pickles, served very similarly as above. Pulled meat – as opposed to sliced – is an indication of its tenderness, after having been slow cooked.

The Amateur Gourmet has lived in the southeast for quite some time, and yet when he thinks barbeque, he thinks ribs. That’s like someone from New York saying: “Huh. What’s this thin crust, foldover pizza by the slice? When I think pizza, I think Wolfgang Puck’s lobster-and-green-apple.” Ribs are associated with Midwestern and Texas style barbeque. They are all fine and good, but when in the southeast, eat as the southeasterners do.

I am sure you all are wondering: how did you become such a Miss Barbeque Bossy Know-it-all, Katy? Especially since you have already told us you don’t eat mammal, which indicates you don’t even eat pulled pork OR ribs.

Well, that’s simple. I learned it from my dad. Here he is:

BBQ_emeril

NO!

My dad is not Emeril!

Although he is a fan. But like the Amateur Gourmet’s dad, my dad is a dentist. And he’s also the biggest barbeque bossy know-it all of all time. Here he really is:

BBQ_dad

I am currently hanging out with both of my parents for a few days in my hometown, lovely Augusta, Georgia.

You have heard Chicago referred to as the Second City, right? Augusta is Georgia’s Second City. It is the second oldest (after Savannah) and second biggest (after Atlanta) city in the state.

Some facts about Augusta: Southern Baptism (the religion) was founded here. James Brown (the Godfather) lives here. The Masters (the golf tournament) is held here. Opinions (the political) are fairly conservative here.

And isn’t it pretty?

BBQ_WashingtonRd

You can see in that picture where it gets its best-known nickname: Disgusta, Georgia.

But don’t laugh TOO hard at that, bucko! I got very snippy when someone in San Francisco called it that a few years ago. Come on, that’s where I’m FROM.

Actually, the downtown has been revitalized and is charming, although its little restaurants and artists’ shops have a hard time competing with the big mall. There are lovely historic homes intown. There is a pretty sprawling lake where you can hike and go boating out in the country a bit. (Lake Strom Thurmond. I’m not kidding.)

Augusta is located two and a half hours east of Atlanta, right smack dab on the South Carolina border. Which means that it is deeply influenced, barbeque-wise, by South Carolina-style barbeque customs. Which are subtly different from Georgia barbeque, and subtly different from North Carolina barbeque.

Dad can tell you ALL about this. He is a barbeque expert.

Accordingly, he has dragged Mom to just about every barbeque place in town, including the big flagship barbeque joint, Sconyers. Jimmy Carter served Sconyer’s in the WHITE HOUSE. And people like Sconyers’ barbeque SO much in Augusta that the owner, Mr. Sconyers, was elected mayor. I’m not kidding.

Last night, musing carefully over what would be best for YOU all, Mom and Dad and I decided to go out and get some barbeque for dinner. As an educational experience.

We chose a local joint that was voted the BEST in Columbia County.

BBQ_sign

Of course, Sconyers is in another county, so it wasn’t a competitor. Let’s don’t let that distract us.

Dad went immediately up to the counter and ordered a pulled pork dinner, choosing sides of coleslaw and potato salad. I marched up next to order a pulled chicken plate.

“We’re out of chicken, ma’am,” said the kid behind the counter.

“Out of chicken … altogether?” I said.

“That’s right, ma’am,” the kid said apologetically. “Would you like pork instead?”

Here he is:

BBQ_counter

“She doesn’t eat pork,” said my mother, which I felt instantly signaled me as someone from Atlanta. I looked shamefacedly at my feet.

A disaster! Dad was prepared to cancel his order and leave, but instead I persuaded him to get it to go. Dad alone could sample the barbeque at home, I realized, and give his expert take.

So we headed home to try it. This is what it looked like, accompanied by a glass of sweet tea:

BBQ_food

Ahh. I’ll point out some highlights.

First, you see the two side dishes in the 2 o’clock position (the coleslaw, which Dad proclaimed delicious), and in the 7 o’clock position (the potato salad, which Dad proclaimed mediocre).

In the 11 o’clock position, you see the pulled pork, served in a traditional southeastern thin tomato-based sauce, with more of a vinegar tang than one of those thick red Kansas City-style sauces they sell bottled in stores. Dad explained it had been smoked and then dressed with sauce, rather than basted as it cooked.

At 12 o’clock is a plain toasted hamburger bun — perhaps the second most common bread served with southeastern barbeque, after white bread. (I’m no fan of either under normal conditions, but I must say, they just GO with southeastern barbeque.) Cornbread is also common, especially with African American barbeque joints.

At 4 o’clock you see a local specialty — rice and hash. Dad has observed that rice and hash is unique to South Carolina, although it is also a standard barbeque side on the Georgia-South Carolina border. Hash, according to Dad, is “a finely blended Brunswick stew,” basically consisting of finely ground potato, onion, meat, tomato, vinegar and seasonings. He has observed a lot of interesting variations by locale.

(Dad has written an article on rice and hash, actually. I wanted to publish it here, but he’s holding out for Bon Appetit or Southern Living. Don’t worry. He’ll regret it.)

You also see sweet pickles, which are a traditional garnish, and one that you will recall the Amateur Gourmet had on his meal, too.

Mom and I ended up eating leftovers at home. But Dad couldn’t have been happier with his meal. Doesn’t he look happy?

BBQ_dadeats

Now Dad knows A LOT more about barbeque than this. He can talk about the history of that weird mustard-based North Carolina barbeque, the famous dry-rub Memphis barbeque, all that tomato-y Kansas City beef barbeque, and whatever it is you people do in Texas.

But there’s no time for that now.

I am wondering if any of YOU are specialists on the barbeque of your hometowns.

You don’t know as much as my dad, I bet, but maybe you know SOMETHING. Go get some and report back, kids! I am curious to hear what you say.

–katy

21 comments

  1. i believe that Missouri has its own special barbeque flavor. we do up porksteaks. grill them or bake them they always taste good with a little bit of grandma’s sauce and lots of mashed potatoes and corn.

  2. I lived Tennessee for a time and loved the local BBQ fare. Pretty much just as decribed above – pulled pork being the best way to go.

    Over here in Orange County, CA we only do BBQ Chicken Salads or Pizzas. Give us California Pizza Kitchen or give us death! :o|

    Aside: Odessa, Texas aka Slowdeatha, Texas. (I learned that one from a local.)

  3. When I lived in Gainesville (GA, not FL) our office parties always involved huge, disposable alumninum trays filled with all the things you describe. Only one thing missing: banana pudding with Nila wafers. Yum!

  4. Being a Memphian, I take barbeque very seriously. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually prefer the ‘wet’ variety to the dry rub. And the bread is important. A good flaky buttered roll can make or break an evening.

    I have been curious as to whether the spelling (bbq, bar-b-que, barbeque, barbecue) is regional, or makes a difference. Any thoughts?

    Oh. And how seriously do we take bbq in this area? Well, we’d even kill for it.

  5. what can i say? i am from kansas city. we have big heads about our barbeque… i am a big fan of both the ribs and the kc masterpiece. that tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork is some of the best stuff on earth!

  6. Look. I know that Texas BBQ is different. From what I’m told, anyway. I don’t eat meat, so I couldn’t tell you. Then again, what these crazy people do in Texas all the time in all areas of their lives is beyond me. I moved here from the civilized world, and expect to be leaving very soon. :D

  7. Just thought that I’d send you a little tip from up here in Canada. After it stopped snowing last week, we managed to drag the barbeque out and get it going despite the frigid Canadian weather. I tried to barbeque asparagus. It was revolting. Some sort of chemical reaction must have occurred, b/c it didn’t taste anything like regular cooked asparagus. Don’t ever barbeque this vegetable. Gah!

  8. East Texas is culturally “old South”, and BBQ pork is king. The other parts of the state were more suited to cattle than pigs. It wasn’t pigs that were herded from South Texas to Kansas City! Barbeque preferences reflect heritage. In Brazil they barbeque fish ribs.

    The king of Texas BBQ is Brisket, dry rubbed, wood fired for 12 or more hours. It takes a lot of concentration to keep the fire at 200 degrees for this long…at least one six-pack. BBQ sauce is served on the side.

  9. Mark, I was interested in what you had to say about the spelling of barbeque (or BBQ, or barbecue, or whatever).

    I did some research on it, and it seems that there isn’t much regional difference per se, but that there sure is a lot of difference period. I found a explanation of the subject by the California Barbecue Association .

    Now what Californians know about barbeque might be an open question. (See Schuyler Anne’s post above.) But it’s interesting anyway. Anyone know more?

  10. Hey, stop this right now! Stop all the Texas defaming! We have great BBQ! I’ll tell you, Katy, that to spot good flavors in the BBQ line here in Texas, you have to look for the shacks. A lean-to with a big smoker in the back. A drive-up window. A paper wrapper. And hot gravy. That’s a very regional speciality here in northern Texas. It’s white gravy, spiced up with cayenne, served on the chopped beef sandwich. You find a lot more chopped beef bbq than pulled pork in Texas. Sorry.

  11. Texas has, doubtless, the best barbecue there is. Beef brisket, sliced or chopped, beef ribs, pork sausage, smoked turkey and chicken… Everything is slow smoked over (generally) mesquite and sauce is on the side. It’s tomato-based, but much tangier and thinner than the northern stuff.

    I’ve been a personal chef in Montana all summer, and asked for beef ribs at Costco. The butcher laughed and wanted to know how big the oven was. He’s thinking the Flintstones, I’m thinking, “Not pork again…” I’m flying home tomorrow, and the first stop is the legendary Salt Lick.

    I understand about the barbecue dad. Mine’s a major snob about it, and there are only about five places in the state that he thinks are “really good” compared to his (which is excellent).

  12. Thanks for the research, Katy. I appreciate you going the extra mile… or two… or however many it is between Georgia and California. (No, I can’t reimburse you.)

    Wikipedia also had an article on the subject, complete with etymology as well as regional differences on preparation.

    Thanks again. And if you and Josh ever find yourself Memphis, I’ll treat y’all to some ‘cue.

  13. The best BBQ in the south or anywhere else for that matter is Sconyers BBQ.

    2250 Sconyers Way

    Augusta, Georgia 30906

  14. HI KATY!

    My name is Richard Harveston, currently a resident of Bernal Heights in lovely San Francisco, I too am an Augusta native.

    A graduate of Butler High School, Larry Sconyer’s mother was my fifth grade teacher at Gracewood Elementary in the 1950’s.

    Evidently you were eating Edmonds BBQ (the best in Columbia County). The meat (pork or chicken) is great, but for traditional Augusta BBQ hash, it;s only Sconyers. By the way the Edmonds (Cleve and Maxanne are friends of my family.

    In the 1950’s a woman I remember only as “old lady

    Barton” cooked BBQ for fund raisers at the Julian Smith Casino on Lake Olmstead that was truly memorable.

    True, Augusta is lovely in the Spring, but sweet home San Francisco and its life affirming liberalism.

    Richard

  15. Hey Katy and also Richard H….I too am from Augusta and know Sconyers well. It is indeed the best anywhere by far. Those traveling through Augusta should be sure to try it…only open three days a week though on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As for Richard’s comment, the lady you remember was Mrs. Jeff Barton who catered all over town back in the 50s and 60s! Butler High Class of 67

  16. I just want to say that I was born and raised in Augusta and have had the opportunity to experience barbecue throughout Georgia and South Carolin. Mot’s barbecue, to me, is the absolute worse I have ever eaten. The best barbecue pork is served twice a year at the Masonic Lodge in North Augusta, SC and the best potato salad as well as the pork is served at Sconyers.

  17. Lived in the Augusta area for the previous 8 years before April. Only BBQ there worth a rat’s rump was Sconyers. Everything else there which passed for carne a la barbacoa was, to varying degrees, shudderworthy. Northern Florida and South Texas…MMMMmmm, those are on another level entirely. Now if you ever want to try some seasoned whole-hog BBQ that will make your eyes roll to the back of your head and are willing to travel, try the pits in the Guavate Ward of Cayey, Puerto Rico after you hit the beaches. Hide so crisp you can crack it with the back of a cooking spoon. When they ask what you want, say ‘lechón’ (lay-CHOWN).

  18. Richard, something must have happened to Cleve Edmonds over the years, because until April I lived down the road from them for the last 5 years (Holiday Park on Columbia Road) and…no, their meat was dry, their sauce mostly vinegar. But the Sconyers recipes should be in the Library of Congress.