Maybe It’s Not Just Barbecue

While at Clemson University, I took a southern literacy course with sociological threads that examined both contemporary southern literature and modern essays regarding southern culture. As a yankee, I found the subject terribly interesting and enjoyed learning about the nuances and attitudes that add up to quintessential south. I remember reading a couple of pieces by John Shelton Reed so when I recently came across a quote of his about southern barbecue, I found it to be the perfect summation of two of my favorite activities – eating food and exploring new places.


My parents came to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. We ate copious amounts of barbecue (not discriminating between pork, beef, and poultry) in addition to a turkey dinner with all of the fixins (a true southern term) and did our best to show them everything the Kansas City area has to offer.


All Slabbed Up and Joe’s KC

And thanks to modern technology, my phone informed me while eating at All Slabbed Up that four years earlier, my parents were visiting us at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where we took them to Meers – the self-described best burger in Oklahoma. I’m sure for as long as we’re moving around, our parents will visit us and we’ll show them the best food the area as the offer. Because that’s what we do.


Meers – 2011

Whether it’s Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse, Smithfield’s in Raleigh, Billy Sim’s in Lawton, Railhead in Fort Worth, Korean BBQ at Honey Pig in NOVA, or All Slabbed Up here in Leavenworth, Kansas, we’ve had our fair share of barbecue in the places we’ve lived and worked. And we’ve sampled barbecue from a variety of states and provinces during our travels – our favorite being the time we stumbled upon the Canadian BBQ Festival in Ottawa.


Ottawa – 2007

John Shelton Reed is right – barbecue changes every hundred miles. And with these changes come slightly different outlooks shaped by the distinct landscapes and unique history. Perhaps that is why I love moving at the whim of the Army so much – the opportunity to live in places I wouldn’t otherwise choose has exposed me to a variety of cultures, attitudes, views, and yes – barbecue.

I’ve had this post queued for a little while but have refrained from posting because it seemed frivolous to write about barbecue in the wake of terrorism. But in the aftermath of the most recent attack, the New York Times stated that mass shootings occur almost daily in our country and they’re not all fueled by radicalized religious nuts. And since there are people out there who seem satisfied with the status quo, it appears that statistic isn’t going to change anytime soon. There is a problem in our country. And whether someone views it as a gun problem, an anger problem, or a mental-health care problem, there is still a problem. Barbecue certainly won’t solve the problem. But maybe if people expose themselves to different regions and sample their barbecue, there’d be a deeper understanding of what makes our country great. Perhaps if we sit down over a pulled pork sandwich with someone who has a completely different outlook on life, we’d understand where they were coming from just a little bit more than before and maybe even learn something about ourselves in the process. It’s worth a shot – at the very least, you’d have the opportunity to eat some decent barbecue.