JUNE 2018 LOPEZ LAW
WHAT IS BARBECUE, REALLY? E xploring A merica ’ s F avorite C uisine
I hope everyone’s summer is off to an amazing start. As I write this, my wife is finalizing plans for a Wisconsin trip with our 4-year-old. We’ll be spending seven days in the most idyllic of all American wilderness destinations: a cabin in the woods. The little one has already begun expressing doubts about traveling somewhere not called Disney World, but I’m anticipating a delightfully simple week. We’re not exactly going primitive, but I’m nonetheless looking forward to family time that isn’t interrupted by phone calls, urgent text messages, or Wi-Fi complications. Sometimes less is more, especially on vacation. I remember my daughter’s birth like it was yesterday, yet simple arithmetic insists she’s now 4 years old. Where do the days go? For better or worse, it seems they get bundled into workweeks filled with stress, and then crossed off the calendar like items on a to-do list. It’s hard to appreciate a life that moves this quickly, but in Wisconsin, I plan on doing my best. As the saying goes, “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” I hope everyone reading this has the opportunity to stretch out and enjoy some time—if only a FROM THE DESK OF Marc Lopez
If you’re like most Americans, you probably refer to your summer cookouts as barbecues. Despite this common shorthand, slapping some burgers and dogs on a scorching-hot grill doesn’t resemble actual barbecue at all. What “true” barbecue means varies from region to region, but at its core, barbecue is about cooking meat slowly over woodsmoke. Celebrated food author Michael Pollan explores the origin of this American cuisine in his book, “Cooked.” After years of research and hundreds of meals, he favors the definition of barbecue provided to him by an Alabama pitmaster named Sy Erskine: “The mystic communion of fire, smoke, and meat in the total absence of water.” When you begin researching different styles of barbecue, however, you realize that nearly everything else surrounding barbecue is a matter of debate. Barbecue, like the country that created it, is influenced by multiple nations and cultures. It exists in various forms across the country, particularly in the South, its spiritual homeland. Wherever you go, you’ll find pitmasters and eaters arguing over the merits of beef versus pork, vinegar versus tomato, and many other characteristics. While it would take countless hours to become a barbecue expert, familiarizing yourself with the major styles will certainly make you the voice of wisdom at your next summer get-together.
little bit—with their nearest and dearest. Do well. Be well. Always plead the 5th.
Perhaps the most stringent school of barbecue is found in eastern North Carolina. Here, barbecue does not so much describe a style of cooking as it does one particular item: a slow- smoked, chopped whole hog, seasoned with a sauce of vinegar and pepper. The pork here is not pulled, and it contains none of the sweeter, tomato-based sauces you’ll find on grocery store shelves. The traditional side is a finely chopped coleslaw.
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