I had grand plans to give my New Hampshire raised nephew a monthly gift and write an accompanying letter that better explains to him the gift, the South, and his family. I got lazy early in the process, but not before I wrote about my love of barbecue.
People tell me that other parts of the country are famous and proud of certain types of food. I suppose these people are correct. However my boy, I'll put the south's list of great foods up against them all. Grandpa George pitched grits as my next gift. If asked Aunt Sarah for her favorite southern food she'd no doubt sing the praises of sweet tea. They are both fine suggestions, but for my money barbecue is the clear winner.
Barbecue is the South. How's it's made. Who makes it. Where it's made. All southern and all good.
Growing up I enjoyed barbecue. Martinsville has the world famous Dixie Pig. I remember going there with the family as a young boy. They had curb side service. This meant on a nice summer night the entire family Gautsch could drive to the Dixie Pig, order our food and eat our food all in the comfort of the family mini-van parked in the Dixie Pig parking lot. Those are nice, though faint memories. But that didn't spark my love or respect for barbecue... politics did.
My first job out of college was managing a Congressional campaign and to help get the good word out we threw free barbecues across the state. This is where I learned the beauty of barbecue. Where I first heard the phrase, 'we ate it all but the oink'. And when I decided barbecue is the perfect southern food. Need some reasons? Here you go my boy:
It's the destination. Good barbecue is not massed produced. It's not sold at an Arby's on Exit 87 of the interstate. You have to seek out good barbecue. You have to drive through the woods or wait in long lines and, that my boy, is part of the pleasure. Some of my favorite barbecue is in the mountains of Cashiers, North Carolina. The road to Cashiers is steep and curvy. It doubles back on itself several times in a way that in my younger years would have left me too sick to eat. But the journey is worth the time and pain. You get to see the mountains. You get to spend an hour or so in a car with good friends who are united in the goal of barbecue. And when you get to the destination the food taste that much sweeter and the bluegrass music they play there every Saturday night sounds that much better. There is something about a little extra effort that always makes you appreciate things that much more.
It's an argument. Everyone thinks they know how to best cook a pig and the proper type of sauce to put on top of the meat. Barbecue sauce can be tomato based, mustard based, or vinegar based. Good friends from different parts of the South will argue which type is proper until they are horse. This might be my favorite part about barbecue. The true answer to which is best is yours to experience and decide upon. However, once you have decided on an answer you better be able to defend it tooth and nail. Everyone can't be right, but when it comes to barbecue (and just about everything else) as long as you can honestly and passionately defend your position you can't be wrong. (That is unless you put ketchup on your barbecue. This is 100% wrong and I will not let a man with Gautsch blood in his body commit such a tragedy.)
It's the whole pig. There isn't a part of pig that doesn't get made in to barbecue. I'm fond of the pulled pork that comes from the shoulder of the pig. I quietly but clearly remember your Grandma Kit bragging about how she left nothing but the white on a barbecue rib. Hell, even your cousin Josie loves pig ears. Americans are often characterized as a wasteful bunch. That is not the case with the barbecue. It really is everything but the oink indeed and that is something that even your mom has to appreciate.