Southern Meat Masters
Southern Meat MastersOctober 22, 2012
You had to expect the last night of the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford would be a blowout, especially given that the theme of this year’s gathering was barbecue. So for the final night, we headed to Woodson Ridge Farm for more of the best smoked meat in one place than anyone has a right to. Let’s go down the line, shall we?
First up, Eastern North Carolina pitmaster Ed Mitchell and his tobacco-barn Brunswick stew, so named because it was traditionally made to celebrate the tobacco harvest. Mitchell’s stewpot was packed with sausage, beef, chicken, corn, butter beans, okra, tomatoes, and the not-so-secret ingredient: Moonshine!
Dallas chef Tim Byres (Smoke) did Texas proud with oak-smoked beef rib tips and a fantastic cheese grits and hominy casserole.
Of course no barbecue blowout would be complete without a pig, and we had ours from one of the greats, pitmaster Sam Jones, of the Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC, pictured below with Rodney Scott (right) of Scott's Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, SC.
Finally, Alabama white sauce, barbecue’s bastard child, got its due on hickoried chicken from Pat Martin (below left with Fred Bell), of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville, TN. I have to say, I’m definitely a fan.
Of course I would be remiss not to mention the day’s speakers, starting off with writer George Singleton. He had the room rolling with tales of his own barbecue rites of passage (which somehow always seemed to involve the police). I’m now resolved to read everything Singleton has ever written. You can start with his Good Dog column here.
We also heard from Eddie Huang (favorite line: “I was a chubby kid with grapefruit knees”), and listened to a conversation on the state of the barbecue union with two SFA founders, John Egerton and Lolis Elie.
We explored Kentucky barbecue—yes, it exists, and it’s not just mutton—as well as Mexican barbecue courtesy of Gustavo Arellano. (Also noted were similarities between Mexicans and rednecks, including old trucks, Stetsons, plural forms of “you,” and a dislike for invading Yankees).
Then there was barbecue poetry from Jake Adam York, the science of cooking whole hogs from Alton Brown, a bathtub full of whiskey-champagne punch, and a Lincoln-Douglas debate—complete with costumes—between Brett Martin and Wright Thompson on the issue of competition barbecue (summed up thusly: A rising smoke lifts all smoke boats vs. pigs shouldn’t be tricked out like they’re Camaros).
Oh yes, and for something completely different, Ashley Christensen put on an incredible 12-course veggie lunch, which wowed even a bunch of crazy barbecue fanatics. Pictured below: mustard greens with crispy okra, charred onions, and a benne-tahini dressing; smoked tomato pie; coal-roasted baby sweet potatoes with red-eye sorghum butter.
So as you’ve probably gathered, it was a pretty full day. I can still smell the smoke on my shirt, something like victory.
Follow all things SFA at southernfoodways.org, and hope to see you next year. I leave you with these parting thoughts from Mr. Egerton and Mr. Elie:
Egerton: The pig is a sacrificial animal. We’re not wise enough to know why that is. But the pig knows. It’s not a trivial thing. We are sinners. We eat the pig. Only the pig is going to Heaven.
Elie: That depends how good the barbecue is.