NORTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, VIRGINIA? THE SEARCH CONTINUES
|The Irish BBQ Team at Jack Daniel's|
The history of barbecue and its preparation isn’t what I’m particularly interested in at the moment. Rather, finding the best places-restaurants, café’s, shacks-where you can drop in knowing that everything is prepared with a whole lotta love is my chore for the moment. I’ll stick my neck out and say that no state really has a corner on barbecue. The style, spicing, wood, pit, sauces and preparation just doesn’t begin and end at state boundaries. However, there are pockets of cooking methods that harken to tradition, and have been preserved by good cooks over many decades.
And, therein lies the mystery. Who are the ones that keep local traditions alive? What keeps everything original? What causes good people to come back year after year?
Most of all, where can we find these talented cooks and their food?
For years now, I’ve served as a judge at some remarkable barbecue competitions. None is finer than the Jack Daniel’s International Barbeque Competition in Lynchburg, Tennessee held each October adjacent to America’s most famous distillery. Here, cooks from all states and many foreign countries gather for cash prizes and the prestige that comes from winning a top prize.
What they have in common is a commitment to quality barbecue. It’ s an art form, one of the few collaborations that really makes people happy.
Frank Spence, the great barbecue critic and former Atlanta Braves executive, speaks glowingly of Harold’s in Atlanta, as did the late humorist Lewis Grizzard. But what about The Pit in Raleigh or Backyard BBQ in Durham? Who can overlook Alabama’s Dreamland or Big Bob Gibson’s? Memphis has wall-to wall BBQ including Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street. Virginia, Florida and South Carolina have favorites as does Mississippi.
And did Brunswick Stew originate in Virginia or Georgia?