“You only get to make a first impression once.” These words have come to weigh so much on how I present myself in my life that it’s taken me nearly three months to decide how to begin this blog. So, I finally decided to go with a tried and true method of generating success online, a cat GIF. I apologize if it comes across as cliche. In the past few months I have realized I am a much better cook than I am a writer.
With that said, I’ve been hungry (sorry) for a way to document my food adventures, both in terms of cooking at home and trying new restaurants out.
To give you some background about myself, some of my earliest memories are of eating traditional mass production BBQ like you find at Kings in Kinston, NC. Which is incidentally how I came to develop an intense dislike of finely chopped coleslaw, blech!
For those of you unfamiliar with North Carolina, you have three B’s in our state: Barbecue, Basketball, and Beer. Those B’s constitute a kind of holy trinity here. Of course, since North Carolina is in the bible belt they wouldn’t come close to having any kind of religious fervor associated with them without folks also having VERY strong conflicting personal opinions regarding them. The biggest determining factor for what kind of sauce you prefer on your pork (traditionally in NC, especially Eastern NC, if it’s not pork it doesn’t count) has the same determining factor as what kind of church you grew up in: Geography.
The map above shows the general delineations for sauce preference. I will save the history lessons for a later date, you’re welcome. You will probably end up figuring out that I love history almost as much as I love BBQ. With that said I’ll get back on track, and please pardon my use of a southernism, when I was knee high to a grasshopper I lived in Pamlico County, NC. If you’re wondering where that is you won’t hurt my feelings. Pamlico County is on the eastern end of the state in the pepper and vinegar region, and living there, even so young, I developed a love of spicy vinegar sauce as well as blue crab. Don’t worry, I’ll get to blue crab at some point. My time in Pamlico county set me up for some confusion when in the late 1990’s my family moved to North Richland Hills, Texas.
To climb up on my historical soap box for a moment, it’s important to remember that Texas is a beef state because that’s where a large cut of the beef in our country originated in the antebellum period and after the Civil War, Texas had a glut of cattle and a desperate need to get them to customers. This problem, solved with the construction of the transcontinental railroad, and cattle drives on routes like the Chisolm Trail, eventually created the Kansas City BBQ boom. This has turned out to be very fortunate for BBQ lovers in Kansas and Missouri.
With all of that said, the holy grail of BBQ in Texas, and my heart, is Brisket, yes I capitalized Brisket, it’s that important. Brisket is one of those meats that when it’s done badly it’s still pretty good, but when it’s done properly you can tell because when you take a bite angels literally* come down from heaven and sing the Hallelujah Chorus. I’m being serious, it’s that good. For me, even as an Eastern NC boy, Brisket will always be my favorite kind of BBQ. Unfortunately, that made my life very difficult in the Summer of 2004, when my family moved back to North Carolina, but this time in the far left, light tomato (Lexington) end of the state. In fact, our very last day as Texas residents we ate Brisket at the now defunct Cotton Belt BBQ on Main Street in North Richland Hills. To this day I still remember everything about that night, the air temperature, how the restaurant smelled, how that brisket tasted, and the sounds of the Stevie Ray Vaughn cover band playing.
Western NC Till Now
So I lived a miserable Brisketless existence with my folks in Western, NC till I graduated from UNC-Asheville in 2012 and took a teaching job in Onslow County, NC back down on the coast in vinegar country. Up till this point any time I craved BBQ my mom would make pulled pork for us with Eastern style vinegar sauce.
I had dabbled in cooking prior to moving and gotten a couple things down pretty decently, but once I was on my own I very quickly realized, like so many boys do after they move out of the house, that unless I learned to cook for myself pretty quickly I was going to starve.
The Summer of 2013 I bought myself a Chargriller offset smoker and started learning the basics of temperature control and how to sometimes not overseason and over cook meat. Christmas of 2014 my folks were very generous and got me a 22″ Weber Kettle in Copper, which is my primary grill now. I can tell you that grilling over charcoal on a Weber has a decent learning curve, and I would be lying if I said I still didn’t occasionally have a major fail every once in a while.
With that said, my Weber, the Kettle Cookers Facebook Group, and AmazingRibs.com (one of the best BBQ websites out there) has turned me into a much more confident cook overall and I am looking forward to sharing my future adventures with you!
*If you take issue with my use of the word literally in this sentence I would have to argue that your previous brisket experiences were lacking.