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The East Carolina BBQ Zone

Hey readers,

     I'm currently participating in an online writer's creativity workshop, and one of our assignments was to write a piece using the bubble method (aka "brain-mapping"), using a story that we've read in our local newspaper.  Well, the local G'sboro newspaper is about 2 pages long on a good Sunday, so I had to stretch to find something to work with.  I have recently taken up cooking, so I do enjoy looking at the food/recipe section.  And of course, BBQ is the thing here. 

   So, I started the bubble off with BBQ.  Over the next few days, I found myself in some regional culinary discussions and found it comical how much we differ on what good food is.  While we each have personal tastes, our geographical orientation really does seem to play a big part in what our tastebuds think!  So, after a few more bubbles were added to the map, and after I channeled in my Erma Bombeck, this is the mess that  came out. 

     Our assignment was to post a 300 word synopsis on the classroom message board, but I had such fun writing this, that I decided to post the piece in it's entirety here at B Complex.  This is likely to get me stoned in G'sboro, so remember me well.  Truly, I hope people will read it in the satirical spirit, in which it is written.  Life is too short and there is no crying in BBQ!  

[Psst:  Totally kidding about the channeling thing!  I don't believe in channeling anything except my TV to The Event on Monday Nights!]

...but don't just take my word for it,
♥ B-Marie

  The East Carolina BBQ Zone
     by Belinda-Marie Purkey


 The following is a tongue-in-cheek poke-fun at my eastern North Carolina friends and their weird way of looking at food.  Just remember, I’m laughing with you, not at you!  

There is an unnumbered dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as Paula Deen’s cupboard, and as timeless as Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. It is the middle ground between distilled white and apple cider, between Memphis and Kansas City, and it lies between the pit of man's stomach and the summit of his GI Tract. This is the dimension of downright weird and it’s topped with 5 gallons of cole slaw. It is an area which we call The Eastern Carolina BBQ Zone!  

As a military spouse, I feel fortunate to have my palette ever at a disadvantage and ready for the next new adventure.  I’ve eaten Reindeer Macs at the country’s northernmost McDonald’s.  I’ve eaten calamari sashimi while sitting on the very boat it was caught on while floating in the East China Sea off the Okinawa coast.  I’ve had a sirloin in Montana that was celebratorily named after the Unibomber.  And despite what history may tell us, the reason we remember the Alamo is because it was chicken-fried. 

Hey, it is what it!  We all love our food.  …and we love our food the way the way we love our food.  We will fight to the death to defend our regional preferences.  I mean, really!  Try going north and ordering a Pig in a Blanket and ask the server to bring with Maple syrup.  Then, try ordering a dish by the same with a bottle of ketchup on the Southside of the Mason-Dixon!  I guarantee that you’ll get a look of disgust and just may be shown the door.  Oatmeal will warm a soul on a cold winter’s day.  That is unless you’re from across the pond, and then only porridge will do.  San Francisco can be quite liberal with their sourdough, whereas Alaskans prefer to stay rightwing with it.  While the most of the nation has pastry with their morning coffee, my friends here in the squared-off triangle will slop it down on a plate with chicken & gravy! 

Variations of food are so vast that is no wonder that we have to have not one, not two, but three cable networks to help them sort it all out!  But, by far, the most dangerous territory of food has to be those 3 little letter, B.B.Q!  …and something has gone terribly wrong on the Eastside of the Smokey Mountains!

I hadn’t even unpacked my household goods here in Goldsboro before I was asked the 2nd most important question, after What denomination do you belong to?   Wilbur’s or McCall’s?  Just where did I stand on the great BBQ debate of Goldsboro, North Carolina?  I remember asking a waitress at Ryan’s steakhouse which place we should try first.  She and another server had an all and out argument in front of me!  Then the manager came out to put them both in their places by telling us that we were better off at Smithfield Chicken & BBQ!  I eventually did try those three (and others), and I can honestly say that it all stinks!  Although, I do give kudos to Smithfield C&B for their fried chicken! 

This is the first time I’ve ever known BBQ Pork to actually preserve your insides!  I’m sorry NC friends, but the vinegar-to-meat ratio should never favor on the side of the condiment.  On the positive side, I do believe that Eastern NC should win some type of an award for great strides forward in mummification advancement!  I wonder if Mr. Disney was aware of this before he signed-off on becoming a Waltsicle?

     BBQ!  Three little letters that have come to define regions throughout the United States and the world!  For some, BBQ is a style of cooking: e.g. open-pit, rotisserie, or broasting to name a few.  For others, BBQ refers to the type of food being cooked.  Pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, ribs…an Okinawan BBQ fave is crispy-crunchy pig-ears.  However, the drama, my friends, comes in the sauce!  While seemingly innocently contained in the pretty little bottles, BBQ sauce can cause more than heartburn.  I mean, we as a nation can’t even agree how to spell it.  Is it BBQ, Bar-b-q, or barbeque sauce?

     As an East Tennessee-gal, I know that real BBQ is red, sweet, & smoky.  Buddy’s BBQ of Knoxville will be the official BBQ caterer in heaven.  We all can agree that Jesus turned the water into wine, but did you know that He served it up alongside a #5 platter from Buddy’s?  Glad I could share that bit of truth. 

     As I said earlier, being a nomad on the government’s dollar and the fact that BBQ has no eternal value, I’ve learned to display grace for other’s opinion of what is and what it not BBQ.  Mayo-based, mustard-gold, hickory smoke; real BBQ is whatever floats your ribs!  If it makes you feel good to label pickled-pork between two slices of bread a “BBQ Sandwich”, then by all means, go forth and be happy!  Be wrong, but be happy!



Spring 2010
Belinda-Marie Purkey

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