Monday, June 15, 2015

Don't Slam My Barbecue

Anyone knowing me, knows how much I love North Carolina. I love the beach, the mountains, and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. I love the good-natured people, the food, and the different accents (although mine is rather embarrassing). 

There is so much to do here and if you are a fisherman, golfer, basketball nut or love the outdoors, your'e in the right place. We love regional music, whether it's banjos and fiddles, shagging to beach music, or contemporary religious music.

Unfortunately, I take exception to the things I hold dear. Fortunately, I know how to tell you off in such a genteel, Southern manner that you'd probably sit up and ask for more. Case in point, I read a columnist's article on his visit to N.C. and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. If you'd care to read it, it is listed here: .

And because I can't keep my mouth shut, I wrote the columnist a reply, which is copied below. Hopefully he will sit up and beg for more. 

Dear John,
Thank you for visiting my home state, North Carolina. I would love you to come back so I may continue to educate you on the finer points of living in the Tar Heel state. You are absolutely right about barbecue; wars were started with less ferocity than defending one’s choice in sauces.

I’m from eastern N.C. and we DO love our vinegar-based sauce, but on occasion we sway to the dark side and use a ketchup-based one. Since there are three geographical regions to my state, there are more than three ways to barbecue; I invite you to travel along the Barbecue Trail from the East, through the Piedmont to the Mountains. Although we judge our B’B’Q in several categories like taste, kind of sauce, wet or dry rub, texture and presentation, it is no less important as a JD Powers’ Ratings and Awards, or the Miss America pageant. And then there are the sides, desserts and sweet tea.

We also use dry rubs and debate the merits on slow cooking vs. indirect heat; these are just as important conversation starters as asking about the weather, or “How is your mama?” We also compare cooking techniques and taste in using charcoal or gas, and the kind of hardwoods for the smokers.

By the way, anyone who knows about grilling would NEVER use pine wood. It’s perfect for lumber and turpentine, but the sap keeps it from even being used in a campfire. Heaven forbid, we only use hardwoods like Hickory or Pecan or Cherry for that great smoky flavor and long-lasting heat. Again, that’s a regional preference.

Then there are the exceptionally serious B’B’Qers that win championships, sauce licensures, and mega bucks…I’m sure you will want to continue your education into the finer points of B’B’Q, so I suggest the book Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.

On the topic of moonshine and tobacco, I cannot respond because I’m a Southern Baptist. No, I don’t roll in the aisles, and I take exception to slurs that intimate slow speech, race relations unless you are comparing Nascar competitions, and lack of education. However, I am grateful that sports are ranked #3 in our state, behind God and Barbecue. 

If you have ever attended a Duke University’s football game, you might find it interesting that their stadium banners boast “highest grade point average in the ACC”, “highest number of athletes graduating as academic scholars in the ACC,” “highest number of graduates that immediately enter the professional world, in the ACC,” and in case you didn't know, Duke recently won the NCAA Championship in BASKETBALL.   

I invite you to my dining room or picnic table, to sample Southern hospitality and great cuisine. North Carolinians love visitors and love showing off our beautiful state. After all, people like it so much here that it ranks #3 for people retiring to another state in the U.S. 

So, come on down.

Yours truly,

Helen Aitken  

May your days be filled with sweet tea, good friends and great Barbecue. I'd love to hear from you, please email me at

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