When I first started traveling extensively in the US, I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder about the South. Growing up it was always portrayed as a land of uneducated hillbillies and racists. The kind of place where banjos would be heard shortly before being kidnapped by a bucktoothed mountain man named Cledus who thinks you’ve got a purdy mouth. However, the more time I spend here, the more I love it. The people are incredibly friendly. They are crazy, it’s true, but they’re undeniably friendly. And not that cold, New England, from-a-distance, kind of friendly. They’re in-your-face, all-around-you friendly in a way that reminds you of a warm oven or a litter of puppies. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming, but it’s always sincere. The country side can be astoundingly beautiful. Driving through the smokey mountains at the height of fall with the windows down and a paper cup full of fresh pressed apple cider is an experience that is hard to beat. But above everything else, above the wild debauchery of Bourbon Street, or the gently rolling farmland in Kentucky, I LOVE the food.
People who grew up in the western part of the states likely don’t understand. As a child, barbecue meant inviting the neighbors over to your back yard for burnt hot-dogs and charred hockey-pucks that tasted more like lighter fluid than beef. Maybe some guy would bring a lone steak, for himself, but that guy was an asshole. It was a social event, not a cuisine. But barbecue. Sweet, juicy, succulent, real, Southern Barbecue. There is nothing else like it in the world. It’s so good it almost feels sinful. Forget Johnny and his fiddle, I’m pretty sure the devil has been losing deals against some of the pit-masters.
Pictures can’t do it justice. Even the rich, smokey aroma that inevitably greets you a block away from the restaurant doors is woefully inadequate. Until you’ve had that first bite, you just have no idea. I’m not the right author to describe it. I don’t have the words. It’s what bacon wishes it could be when it grows up. It is equal parts decadence and serenity. It is pure, overwhelming warmth and friendliness, with a side of beans and slaw.