"Amen, let's eat." - Why barbecue matters
July 4th, 2011
07:30 AM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe. We ran this one from pitmaster Drew Robinson a little while back, but it seemed appropriate to revisit it for National Barbecue Day.

For many, barbecue is the ultimate leveler.

When asked about bridging racial and societal gaps in the South, Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge once responded with, "... There's hope in barbecue."

Southern cookbook author Virginia Willis also believes in the power of smoked meat, adding: "BBQ exist[s] without borders. Every nation under the sun throws meat on fire."

As it turns out, chef/pitmaster Drew Robinson of Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q takes his cue from the same school of thought.

Five Reasons Why Barbecue is Important: Drew Robinson

1. Community
"At barbecue gatherings in by-gone eras, people probably didn’t need a reason to be reminded to get together and share each other’s time. That’s just not the case anymore. People look for reasons to maintain community and their sense of place in it. Fortunately, we have barbecue as a sort of communal elixir. Barbecue is both primal and elemental which is why it has great power to equalize people. It grounds people and roots them to their place. There’s something magical in that smoky meat that helps us find our common ground, our place at the table and our place in the community."

2. Having a good time
"I don’t think anyone seriously connected to barbecue and barbecue culture would tell you they don’t live a good life. It may be hard work, but there is never any shortage of joy and happiness over what you’re doing. Firing up the pit usually means firing up the music, cooling down the beer, telling stories of varying degrees of truthfulness and being generally satisfied just to see where the time takes you. In the event you have a whole hog and the smoke and embers carry you into the wee hours, you’ll usually find that's where some of the best times are had."

3. Lessons learned
"You learn a lot around the fire. The Pitmaster learns about technique, detail, hospitality and the patience only slow cooking can teach. Depending on the sauce served, you might learn a lot about geography and most certainly how to carry on a right and proper debate. But one thing the pit obviously can not teach is spelling. Barbecue, Barbacoa, Bar-B-Q, Bar-B-Que and for the truly deficient ... BBQ. If, I am missing one, please tweet me."

4. Eating your napkin
"There is more than one food that requires genuine physical engagement with true disregard for how your shirt looks after the meal, but for me barbecue stands at the top of the list. And while there is more than one way to eat barbecue, probably the most common method is on a bun or between two slices of white bread. There is something very magical and proletariat about wrapping a small mountain of well-sauced meat in a bun. It’s a vehicle to transport it from plate to mouth and while you make your way to the end of the bun you can use it to sop up little drops of sauce and grease from the corners of your mouth and finger tips. It’s like being a kid all over again and getting to play with your food while trying to be civil at the same time."

5. Giving thanks
"In the old days when it was hog-killing time, you’d smoke and cure the things that would get you through winter and you could save some of the fresh meat to eat as a celebration. Some folks might only have a few cuts and some folks were lucky enough to barbecue the whole hog. Either way, it was a time to give thanks for nourishment and needs being filled.

When we sit down together now, barbecue can help remind us that we need to be thankful for what we have. Hogs are one part of a food chain that have helped sustain a people and create a meaningful culture. Barbecue manifested itself as a piece of that cultural tapestry so powerfully that it even has its own subcultures. Tracing those lines back from a rack of ribs or a barbecue sandwich enjoyed with friends and family reminds us that we have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, in some households, particularly in the South, grace doesn’t end with 'Amen,' it ends with 'Amen, let’s eat.'”


That's great, but how do you spell it? BBQ, barbecue, barbeque?

Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and this week, we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011. The week will culminate with a Secret Supper in New York City, and Eatocracy invites you to participate online starting Monday July 11th at 6:30 p.m. E.T.

Posted by:
Filed under: Barbecue • Cultural Identity • Culture • Fourth of July • Holidays • Rituals • Think

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. http://xtremenoreviews.net/

    I’m mind blown by how well you can speak reality in this post. I agree with everything you’re saying.


    December 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  2. Emelia Kanson

    Good food, good drink, good god, let's eat! Had barbecue today, hickory-smoked beef, mm-mm~! Can't beat Southern recipes. It simply can't be done.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  3. Darla

    @ComeOnMan9 – Have to agree. It's not something that can be accomplished by by reading a recipe. Takes time, patience, trial & error – and passion to learn to grill or BBQ well. I learned as a young girl – and have taught many others in my life. Though all of my trainees will gladly let me work the grill if given the option. There's nothing that says summertime like an ice cold beer and the smell of meat cooking on a grill....

    July 5, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  4. ComeOnMan9

    See as a member of both BBQ Nation and PETA(People Eating Tasty Animals), my first commandment is to try to BBQ anything that once had a heartbeat. Meat is meat and I am not discriminating.

    July 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  5. Kevin Moore

    Born in Texas, lived all over the country and other parts of the world, now in New Mexico, and I've eaten all manner of wood or gas cooked meats with more rubs, marinades or just smoke than I can remember. That said, all the different styles of grilling or barbecuing have their merits. Taste is regional, nobody has the corner on flavor, technique or anything else. I agree with the previous poster who said the best barbecue is what you enjoy, be it mustard, rubbed, smoked or what have you.
    The important part is that we can get together as PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) and have a good time with some great food.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  6. ComeOnMan9

    What they don't tell you is how much fun it is to learn how to properly cook outside with charcoal and wood. This is a hobby that takes time to develop as it requires touch. Since I grew up no where near good BBQ, I get pick and choose which style I like to try to cook on a given day. My brisket make grown men weep.

    July 5, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  7. Noxious Sunshine

    I cant waiy to have our wedding in Mexico.. my fiancee owns a working ranch with his dad down there... They do a whole pig smoked in a pit.. It's pretty legendary from what i hear..

    July 5, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  8. Granite

    The foodies have overstepped their level of importance. Food is food, not some sort of spiritual salvation. Get over yourselves.

    July 5, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • Patrickk

      Foodies are important people that have refined tastes and opinions. You can learn a lot from us.

      July 5, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Carolina Boy

      Food is food, but some is bad, some is good and some is great.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  9. Boy George

    I'd hit it!

    July 5, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  10. chef cal

    ive been up and down the eastern states, born and raised Texas through and through all i can say is pork is in the south of carolina and Texas has pretty much calimed all aspects of the cow. KC rib joints cant hold a candle cause you all use sauce and not rub for flavor. Beef just has that natural flavor that makes the mouth water, which cant be diluted with vinegar or tomato etc... its very weird to travel to TX for bbq cause depending on where you end up you get a different veriety of flavor be it central east txmx or nuevo mex

    July 5, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  11. Carnie Vore

    Nothing like hearing a bunch of BBQ snobs railing about how their way is the ONLY way. I bet many of you uptight Texans would make fun of some folks who were sitting around talking haughtily about wines. But bring up the subject of slow-cooking meat and you become just as bad if not worse than any wine snob I've met. Texas wouldn't be a bad place, except for all of the Texans.

    You know what the best BBQ is? Whatever you enjoy. I've combined dry rubs with a vinegar-based finish, smoking with a dark beer-based sauce, low heat with a tomato sauce, etc., and all have been delicious. Limited minds limit people.

    July 5, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Nofets


      Let's eat!

      July 5, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  12. Connecticut Yankee

    If I want brisket, I go to Texas. Love 'em or hate 'em, Texans are born knowing how to smoke a righteous brisket. If I want pork shoulder, I go to North Carolina–but that's largely because I was stationed at Fort Bragg when I learned the difference between grilling and barbecue. I also think Memphis (dry) ribs are hard to beat. And for all-around good barbecued critters, Kansas City is a great place to visit. Experiment and try them all. Life is good!

    July 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. Texas Web

    There's nothing like a good barbecue and cold beer.

    July 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  14. Jason008976

    And just for the record–if it ain't charcoal, it ain't barbecue.

    July 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Chris

      You are entirely correct, sir.

      July 5, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  15. David Harris

    Barbecue (noun, not verb. Pig or beef) matters because it tastes good. Let's not read too much into this.

    July 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Keith Cox

    PIE is the real NATION BUILDER!!!

    July 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Lisa E.

      Oh lord, I do love pie.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Skip

      ROFLMAO ! But what kind of Pie? :-)

      July 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
      • Tew Maleu@Skip


        July 5, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  17. Jonathan

    In five minutes every Texan reading this article is going to flip because:


    July 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • TEXAS-T

      Hell,Our rats in Texas are Bigger than them scrawny little porkers you call pigs in the North East. Beef,It's where it's at and only in TEXAS!

      July 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
      • David Harris

        You cook rats?

        July 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
      • TEXAS-T@David

        We don't cook 'em son-we BBQ 'em low and slow. After 8 hours we make nachos and chimmi changies for our mexican landscaping crew. Don't need no sauce either.

        July 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
      • Objective

        Uneducated and racist. Nice combination

        July 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
      • TEXAS-T

        Racist my ass,we use prime Texas Rat,none of them illegal Mexican rats from down south.

        July 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • Jason008976

        That politically correct, arrogant crap don't belong in this thread, Objective.

        July 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Vanilla Gorilla

      NC BBQ is certainly tasty given what they have to work – a noble attempt indeed. Vinegar and mustard can hide many flaws – which they need to do in most cases. Over cooked, over seasoned and overrated.
      When is the last time you saw a NC BBQ house north of the Mason Dixon line?
      The best BBQ in the world is a combination of Texas and Kansas City styles – no pork – just corn fed beef from Nebraska or Iowa. Slowly smoked for hours over a blend of seasoned oak and apple wood with just a simple rub of salt and pepper.

      July 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
      • David Harris

        Mustard is South Carolina.

        July 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Daniel

    Once again, another writer fails to understand the true meaning of the word "barbecue."

    Barbecue is SMOKED for a LONG PERIOD OF TIME, with low heat. What you northern and western types are doing is GRILLING. You cook quickly over a high heat. It's not even the same game, let alone ballpark. Plus, you use charcoal whereas hardwoods are the ONLY proper fuel for true barbecue.

    July 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • morris2196

      I agree. But would be more specific on the type of wood, I would say only hickory, apple or mesquite.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Bud in NC

      Daniel- You are so right. Barbecue is a nown, not a verb. Barbecue is what you eat, not the method of preperation. AND North Carolina has the best Barbecue in the world. No contest.

      July 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
      • Skip

        Hey Bud, there are regional tastes in BBQ I admit. The adherents to local tastes can be very loyal to their methods and end products! What we ALL can agree on is that it is all good! I for one have no problem trying out different methods and sauces, and even though I am from Texas, I will not claim to have the best BBQ over anyone else's. I enjoy the food and the camaraderie generated at these gatherings!

        July 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
      • stevie boy

        Try "noun"

        July 5, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Matthew B

      I think you should re-read the article. The author is obviously talking about slow-cooking meat over fire (which barbecue is – it's more than simply smoking the meat). Nowhere does the author describe anything approaching simple grilling. Take, for example, this line: "You learn a lot around the fire. The Pitmaster learns about technique, detail, hospitality and the patience only slow cooking can teach." SLOW cooking.

      Also, if all you're doing is smoking your meat, you're smoking, not making barbecue. Barbecue is cooked with low heat AND smoke, over several hours. Yeesh.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  19. Texas BBQ

    In Texas, BBQ is somethig you eat, it's not an event you attend.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Well that just sucks for you guys. How sad

      July 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • redstart

      Why can't it be both?

      July 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Vanilla Gorilla

      Have many friends in Tejas and over the years they have invited me to many BBQ's. So how does your clan define BBQ?
      There are hundred's of BBQ competitions in Tejas – so you need to gas up that pickup and spread the word ......
      The BBQ in the Carolina's is smoked meat smothered in a variety of sauces that enhance the flavor of mediocre pork.
      The only way you could eat that stuff is to cook it for 8+ hours ..................the folks in Tejas took BBQing to a new level when they started using beef.
      By the way it appears that the author of the article does not know good BBQ – have him over for some Spam

      July 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
      • Carolina Boy

        You sir have not had good Carolina Q. If you have to smother it in sauce to make it good. The sauce is a side only to enhance the experience, to bring new sensations to your mouth as you eat. But good Q stands with out the sauce.

        August 12, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Skip

      A BBQ is an event, BBQ is smoked and saused meat (Pork, Beef,Chicken, and goat) I am from Texas also.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • TriXen

      I dunno man... I'm from Texas, born and raised here... I eat bbq, yes... but I also GO to bbq's... going to one right now in fact! Happy 4th yall!

      July 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • FLORIDA007

      Too bad for you.

      July 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Two words for you

      I don't care if its food, or an event, either way it's freaking good and I am always down to participate.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  20. RichardHead

    Wait a minute-WHERE'S THE BEEF? Have a great Holiday all.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:51 am |
| Part of