Planning more barbecue projects?

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Chris Allingham

Administrator
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Originally posted by Tom Chilton:

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Hi, Your book is great! Here's a question - are you planning any more BBQ related projects, books, etc? If so, what are they?

If BBQ is a metaphor for America, what is it telling us about America today? What changes have you seen since you wrote your book?

Thanks for taking the time to do this!

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Tom Chilton

"If a man says something in the forest, and there's no woman around to hear him ..... is he still wrong?"
 

Lolis Eric Elie

New member
Tom,

For years, I have said that I didn't intend to re-visit barbecue. "Smokestack" is imperfect in a bunch of different ways, but I have never intended to go back and correct/improve it.

Well then the Southern Foodways Alliance, of which I am a founding member, asked me to edit the second edition of "Cornbread Nation : the Best of Southern Food Writing." I agreed. The book is about 60% about barbecue and the rest is general writing about Southern Food. But in order to make it credible and complete with regard to barbecue, I had to dig out a lot of my old barbecue related materials and search for others. Didn't have to do any more eating, but I did have to do a lot of thinking.

As for what is our metaphor now, barbecue still serves that purpose. We as a nation are more and more interested in our Americaness. That's true in politics and broader cultural issues. So you see more and more barbecue restaurants popping up in such places as New York City and Las Vegas, Nevada.

I'd also look at what's happening with wine. Consider Jonathan Nossiter's film, "Mondovino." It's largely a critique of the American-led commodification of wine. But it really portrays to very American ideas. The first is the sort of individualism, the attempt to make something your own way, in your own style. The second is the fast food impulse, the quest to make one thing and sell it to everybod.

Thanks for asking,

Lolis
 

Tom Chilton

TVWBB Fan
Hi, thanks a lot for the response. Your answer about the competing urges of American-ness really gets me thinking. I personally like to cook BBQ because there's so much to fool around with and be creative with - spices, woods, cookers, meats, sauces, etc. That would speak to the first impulse you talked about, the urge to make something unique. I think you see this a lot with bread baking, beer making, both individually and with small bakeries and microbreweries, etc.

The other urge, the fast food one, is antithetical to the first one but exists right along with it. It's what the book "Fast Food Nation" describes - dumbing food and the making of food down so it's a mechanical process that can be replicated by teenagers anywhere, wiping out regional differences, nuances, use or local ingredients or seasonal ingredients, etc. One thing that I've thought about is what role you think competition BBQ is playing in this? I know competition get a lot of people involved in BBQ and are fun, but could they be "dumbing down" BBQ, wiping out regional differences, personal flair, etc.? I think one example might be how people cook chicken at competitions now - everybody does chicken thighs in almost the exact same way. I'd like to know what you think about this.
 

Joe McManus

TVWBB All-Star
Chris - don't know if its proper to offer opinions or not, feel free to delete. I don't want to take the spotlight away from Lolis.

Tom - As a competitor, I'm not sure competition BBQ reflects the complete BBQ community. That community is so broad. Competitions only play a small role in that community. Even within the competition community there are many different regional governing bodies, KCBS, MIM, Texas, Etc. Each have their own "flair". Competition may raise the awareness of Q, but I don't think its a direct replacement for the Q you seek out when venturing to a new town. I think many cooks will agree that they cook differently when not competing.
 

Lolis Eric Elie

New member
Joe, Chris,

Competition barbecuing is more blessing that curse, but it's a bit of both.

On the blessing side, you got people focusing on perfect barbecue in a way that you can't if you're running a restaurant or cooking in the backyard with the kids running around and the neighbors complaining about the smoke. Even if you have to get one of those computer assisted smokers for your restaurant, you can still see folks at competitions doing it the old fashioned way.

But there has indeed evolved a competition aesthetic. The competition circuit has become national and national tastes prevail. Mustard sauces, vinegar sauces, barbecue mutton and barbecue goat need not apply for best of show, even though you might be honorable mention in some side category.

I think competitions need to strive for regional authenticity more. Even if you won the championship in Kansas city with your tomato based sauce, you should have to cook vinegar based whole hog when you compete in North Carolina.

That's my two cents,

Lolis
 
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