In Defense of the True ’Cue – Keeping pork pure in North Carolina by Calvin Trillin (New Yorker: Nov 2, 2015) offers three of my favorite things: Calvin Trillin, North Carolina Barbecue, and The Controversy Over North Carolina Barbecue (only bringing in the UNC-Duke Basketball Rivalry could have made it better). I’ve excerpted the opening paragraph and included a video to give a sense of the article, but you owe it to yourself to read the entire piece, which is available at the link.
For some years, I’m now prepared to admit, I somehow labored under the impression that Rocky Mount is the line of demarcation that separates the two principal schools of North Carolina barbecue. Wrong. The line of demarcation is, roughly, Raleigh, sixty miles west. The Research Triangle—the area encompassing Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—is a sort of demilitarized zone, where someone who’s been concentrating on the barbecue scene, as I was on my most recent visit, half expects to see the distinctive blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers. Rocky Mount is within the eastern North Carolina sphere of influence, where barbecue means the whole hog, chopped, with a vinegar-based sauce that is flavored with pepper. To the west of the DMZ lies territory controlled by the forces of what is variously called Piedmont- or Western- or Lexington-style barbecue—a version that uses only pork shoulders, chopped (or, sometimes, sliced), with a sauce that is also vinegar-based but has been turned pinkish by the addition of ketchup or tomato sauce. All of that should have been obvious even to somebody who, being from Kansas City, was brought up to assume that barbecue meant ribs or beef brisket, with a thick, tomato-based sauce, and that the presence of chopped-up meat at a barbecue joint would be an indication that a customer of long standing had absent-mindedly shown up without his teeth.
Credit Due Department: Photo by [email protected]