[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:
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:
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:
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?
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.
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:
“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:
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?
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.