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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Washington Post Article About Virginia Barbecue

Jim Shahin, Washington Post Barbecue Columnist, on the right with yours truly out and about enjoying a Virginia Barbecue Tour.
The Washington Post published an article entitled "Where did barbecue begin? Virginia, he says — and he stands by it." The author, my friend Jim Shahin, does a great job of writing about me and my book even though he couldn't resist mentioning my balding head. However, there were some edits made to the article, apparently after Jim submitted it to his editors, that don't accurately explain the thesis of my book.

For some reason, the phrase "southern barbecue" was left out of the title of the article. As I point out in my book, the barbecue cooking technique is ancient and no one really knows where it started. I believe that it started in Africa thousands of year ago, but there is no way to make a strong case either way.

In my book I assert that SOUTHERN barbecue was born in Virginia; not barbecue itself. There are many styles of barbecue in the world and even in the United States. In fact, in the first chapter I document the history of the four most popular styles of barbecue in the United States today which are Southern barbecue, California (or Western) barbecue, Backyard barbecue and Kitchen barbecue.

Southern barbecue is the kind of smoky, pull tender, mouthwatering barbecue that you can find all around the southern United States. California barbecue is the kind of barbecue that is most prevalent in California and the southwest where meats are slow cooked buried in a pit or broiled over hot coals such as California tri-tip or Santa Maria-style ribeyes. Backyard barbecue is generally hot dogs and hamburgers and steaks quickly broiled (grilled) on our backyard charcoal grills. Of course, people in the South have a hard time accepting grilling as a form of barbecuing but most areas of the United States today do call grilling in the backyard barbecuing. The fourth style of barbecue I write about isn't really a barbecuing technique either but its popularity has all but removed the stigma of calling it barbecue. People cook Kitchen barbecue inside their homes often using a crock pot. It consists of pulled pork cooked in a crock pot topped with a commercial barbecue sauce. Barbecued potato chips and barbecued beans are also in this category. Though Americans have their own ways of preparing barbecue and definitions of the word vary based upon region, the gold standard for American barbecue is and always has been Southern barbecue.

In my book, I show that Southern barbecue was born in seventeenth-century Virginia citing over 700 primary and secondary sources. So, please keep that in mind when you read titles in articles about my book such as the one in the most recent Washington Post article.

Overall, Jim did a great job of writing the article. He is a much better writer than I and I feel privileged to call him friend.

The Virginia Barbecue Revival is warming up! You can read the Washington Post article by clicking here. Where did barbecue begin? Virginia, he says — and he stands by it

You can read more about Virginia barbecue in my book available at online booksellers and on shelves on September 12, 2016.

Friday, August 26, 2016

No Forks Required

This signs greets customers when they walk into Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas.
Several central Texas barbecue restaurants make it clear that barbecue should be eaten with your fingers rather than forks. Of course, that central Texas practice was born when meat markets (butchers) in that area started barbecuing meats for sale at around the end of the 1800s in order to move more product with less waste. However, the tradition of eating barbecue with our fingers rather than utensils is much older than the central Texas tradition.

Old accounts of barbecues (some of which go back hundreds of years) in Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and even New York City tell of how the barbecue was eaten with fingers or, as one put it, “nature’s gifts of teeth and fingers.”

The reason for this practice goes back to colonial times in Virginia. As people in frontier regions would hold barbecues and people from all over the region would attend, there was simply no way of providing everyone with eating utensils. Metal forks and spoons were luxury items in those days and, of course, there were no convenience stores around that sold cheap plastic forks and spoons. Therefore, attendees of those old barbecues would bring their own cup and spoon so that they could enjoy the Brunswick stew and ate the barbecue with their fingers. In an advertisement for a barbecue held in Augusta, Georgia, in 1840, we find:

"The Barbecue today, will be strictly after the old Virginia style, in the olden time, those therefore who intend to participate should not go unprovided with a knife, with which to, 'cut their way,' into the delicious legs of mutton &c., which will be served for the occasion."

So, put those forks down and eat your barbecue the right way . . . the Virginian way . . . even if you are in central Texas.

You can read more in my upcoming book Virginia Barbecue: A History available for pre-order at online booksellers. Click here for Amazon.com.