This week, Anna and Lia get fired up as they put the bae in bar-BAE-cue! Hop in your covered wagon as Anna Van Valin takes us on a trip through the American Barbecue Belt, from the Carolinas to Texas. We explore the influences and histories that make each region’s BBQ style so unique, like the indigenous Tainos’ method of slow cooking spiced meat, George Washington’s obsession with barbecue parties, and the African-American man who put Kansas City on the BBQ map. On the way, she gives handy pro-tips to maximize your BBQ experience (rule of thumb: the yellowy sauce goes on the pulled pork, the red sauce goes on the beef!) But first, Lia Ballentine us about the holidays celebrating the wonders of all things char, and highlights three amazing female pitmasters who are blazing trails in the barbecue world. And at the end, Anna and Lia taste test barbecue sauces and rank their most - and least - favorite. So let’s get low and slow, because this episode is smokin’!
Explore from the show:
Connect with us:
(c) Van Valin LLC, Yumday Co
So he opened up barbecue beyond pork.
In fact, his barbecue joint originally served things like Possum, woodchuck, and raccoon.
That might be a little too open.
Hi everyone, from Yumday and Van Valin Productions, welcome to Every Day is a Food Day! *** I’m your host, Anna Van Valin.
And I’m your other host, Lia Ballentine. Today we’re going to get you all fired up...
Because this episode is all about Barbecue.
First up, I’ll tell you about how my favorite childhood barbecue was cooked by nuns and Anna tells us her rule of thumb for matching sauce with meat
Yellowy sauce goes on pulled pork, red sauce goes on beef.
Then I’m going to tell you about the holidays dedicated to all things char, how the National BBQ Council has done more peacekeeping than the UN, and a few female pitmasters who are smoking up the grill world.
In the Deep Dish, we’re gonna hop in our covered wagons and take a regional tour of American BBQ from the Carolinas to Texas. And finally, Lia and I are going to taste test sauces from four different regions and rank our favorites.
Be sure to subscribe, and please leave a rating and review. Help us get the word out about the show by sharing it with anyone who loves food, podcasts - or both!
For more great content about the foods and stories we talk about on the show, and to get a peak behind the scenes, connect with us on social media by following @FoodDayPod. Visit our website yumday.co/podcast where you can join our mailing list and enter our monthly giveaway for the chance to win a delicious prize. All these links in the show notes too.
So it's almost Memorial Day.
It's insane, I can't believe it.
I can't believe it. Summers coming, we've all got our vaccines. Woohoo! We hope you got yours too, so we thought… Barbecue.
Obviously, that's like the Memorial Day food, 'cause it's all about cooking out... Hanging outside. Grilling.
Eating too much. I think Memorial Day is the number one barbecue day of the year.
I bet it is.
So for our purposes here, we wanna be specific when we talk about barbecue, we're talking about the traditional definition, which is cooking spiced meat, low and slow over an indirect flame in a pit.
Yes. So not just grilling.
Yeah, because barbeque is like next level. You gotta know how to create the right smoke, the right heat get that flame nice and rolling.
You gotta know the time. You gotta know the height of the flame.
Yup. There's a lot of patience involved with it too.
It really does take a lot of skill.
You can't rush good BBQ.
Yeah, except on the Netflix Barbecue competition show where they give them like two hours to do a nine-hour brisket. Then they’re like “this brisket doesn't taste right!”
You gave me two hours to make a brisket.
Like I’ve barely slices the thing. Anyway, patience, dedication, I love that. I once went to the New York Barbecue Festival in Union Square in New York, and it was awesome.
I bet it smelled so good.
For miles around, it smells so freaking good, and you could get one of those punch cards you just walk from thing to thing to thing.
A little barbecue passport like stamp.
Yeah, you just get like a tri-tip here. I'd like a brisket here, I'd like a burnt end here. So good.
Oh man. Burnt ends. I love burnt ends. Just give me all of the burnt ends.
It's weird because burnt crust doesn't taste good, like not everything that's burned/
/Yeah, that's true.
/ Tastes Good but for some reason, burn ends...
Yeah, I love that extra char!
Yeah, you know what, one of my favorite things about barbeque is?
Corn Bread. Corn Bread.
Ohhhh. I didn't know you were a corn bread person.
Well, you know I'm a carb person, I'm on a high carb diet. But yeah, in the words of Chris Rock.
0:04:14 FX: Clip, “No Sex” by Chris Rock
Chris Rock: Corn bread, ain't nothing wrong with that.
But Lia, you and I are in very different situations when it comes to barbecue, 'cause although I love barbecue, I am not from the barbecue belt or barbecue territory, but you my friend.
You're from Tennessee. You're in Texas now.
I've just been living that barbecue life and it's been glorious. I can find basically really great barbeque on every corner. I basically just carry a bib with me at all times.
So we got a lot of feedback from listeners that they loved our wine episode last season because we compared the different... Because they really loved our, pseudo-scientific study of comparing all the different elements of containers, and we wanted to bring back something like that, so we're not exactly doing a competition here, but at the end of the Deep Dish, Lia and I are going to taste test barbecue sauces.
We are. We're going to basically do a little trip, a travel through the regions and taste all of the regional sauces
I don't know, maybe we'll do our own ranking
Yeah, I got a big old hunk of bread again, the carbs.
I have a packet of water crackers, available.
Youre so much classier than I am. I'm like, a hunk of bread. A bunch of sauce. Here we go. But here's my question, Lia. Are you gonna be able to be impartial?
I'm going to try my hardest...
I believe in you, I trust you.and honestly, I think after we've talked about the history of barbecue and these holidays and in the Deep Dish, I'm gonna walk us through four main regions of barbecue, their influences and sort of the differences and the flavors and styles. I think it will add a whole new layer and appreciation...
I think so.
...To the sauces that we're gonna shotgun later, by the way, listeners, Lia and I each now have seven full bottles of barbecue sauce, which means this is all we're gonna be eating for the summer.
The rest of the summer, we're only eating things that will be coated in barbecue sauce.
It's just pulled pork and hot links from now to September. I was excited in my research to learn the actual regions of the different sauces and why and what meat they went to, 'cause I don't know any of this stuff, so I was mostly just like “the yellowy sauce goes on the pulled pork.”
Yup, and you're right.
The runny red sauce goes on the brisket. Which at the end of the day, is all you really needed to know. But now I feel a little bit more informed and I hope you will too, listeners.
I remember the first time I ever had pulled pork barbecue. Like legit, Tennessee.
Yeah, this is one of those, like immigrant kid, first moments, much like my mashed potato memory... So at my elementary school in Knoxville, it's like this little tiny Catholic school, every fall, they would have the Fall Festival, but apparently the big thing that the whole town was crazy for that they would come to the St. Joseph School Fall Festival for was the pulled pork.
Wait, at just a little Catholic elementary school serving up the best pulled pork? In Tennessee?
Oh, they would be like a working on this barbecue pit. It was actually out in the school yard.
Im just imagining a social studies teacher is like raking the coals and the flames. The gym teacher is like basting it.
Like some nuns back there actually that are doing all of the stoking of the fire, that's probably how they used to threaten the kids too, if you were bad.
Yeah, they make those junior nuns, what what they call the novices?
Yeah. You really know a t on about Catholicism.
Do you know how many times I've watched Sister Act.
Oh, well, that's all you need to know.
Its just Sister Act and Sound of Music and everything else, I'm just guessing. They probably make the novices stay up all night to make sure that the flames don't go out.
Stay up with the barbecue.
Yeah stay up with the barbecue. Do you ever barbecue now, do you have a pit... A version of a pit. A smoker?
Not... Now, we actually have been thinking about getting a smoker for the house to try our own, but it's also... It's like, why would we... When we're here in Austin.
Right, that's true.
So you can just go around the corner and hit up a great barbecue joint, but we have thought about getting some kind of smoker for it because it would be nice to make our own brisket.
Then you could have brisket on demand.
I guess there's GrubHub, but...
That's true. That is true. I think I went a little too hard when I first moved here though, because I got so excited that we basically spent every weekend, eating in a new barbecue place, and then I kind of barbecued myself out for a bit.
Yeah. That's a lot of meat.
But, I missed Korean barbecue in LA.
Oh my God, it's so good. Anything that has all you can eat meat, if you've never been to a real Korean barbecue, at least the ones in Los Angeles, and we have a really vibrant Koreatown here, you go, and they have tiers of meat, the tears of meat, like levels...
Meat tears. Like, levels of meat. And so you'll say I would like column A basically like tier A. And then you can order unlimited amounts of whatever kinds of meat are on that page of the menu, just keep bringing it to you. Man, bulgogi.
Man, short ribs.
The short ribs!
It's so good. And then you get all these condiments and size and you don't know what the f*** they are, they're just like, there's like a little slimy trotillas, there's Kimchi... There's sprouts and you just... We just sit there and you have no idea what corner to put it on.
And you just ate it all. I'm like, Is this fish or egg? or something else like, I don't know.
Yeah, do I eat this on its own? Do I put it on top. Do I wrap it together? First of all, the servers move so fast, you can never ask them even if you wanted to.
Cause they're constantly just taking your pan away and bringing another pan, plus all the meats, you just kinda have to guess.
The corn cheese, the corn cheese.
The corn cheese.
And they're so quick with the scissors, like how the.
Meat scissors. It's the first time I see meat scissors.
Yeah, I actually have some Korean friends and they're like, Yeah, we just use scissors for everything. And it makes so much sense.
Yeah, but you have to be careful, but sometimes you get the janky scissors that somebody left too close to the flame, so that the handle is totally melted, you can't get your hand in. Oh, its so good.
Aw I miss it.
Get your vaccines guys, get your vaccines so we can go back to Korean barbecue.
K BBQ all day.
KBBQ all day. Oh, so good. Now, I'm just thinking about it.
I know. Getting really hungry.
So, Lia we've got Memorial Day, but there's gotta be more days dedicated to barbecue.
There are definitely more days for barbecue there are also a couple of other days that pay tribute to meat that work well with barbecue. So I'm just gonna talk about these real quickly, especially because we discussed them in our bacon episode quite a bit already. Yeah, so for people who listen to the bacon episode in Season 1, you may already know that October is National pork month. The point of National Pork Month was to have consumers and farmers connect and bring about awareness to the pork industry, kind of in the same way the Iowa Porkettes used to shine light on the growing pork industry.
Love the Porkettes.
Love them. We love the Iowa Porkettes. And then also in October is National Pulled Pork Day, and that's October 12th. It was launched by Sunnies, which is a barbecue restaurant that was opened in Gainesville, Florida back in the late 60s, and it ended up getting franchised in the 70s. And there's locations all over the southeast, and actually back in my home town of Knoxville, Tennessee, there used to be a Sunnies barbecue restaurant there, and we used to love to go to it because they had all you can eat barbecue as an option.
What? Challenge accepted.
It was great. It was that, Some Texas Toast. And then all you can eat sides. So mash potatoes, green beans.
Aw man Texas Toast. We do not talk about Texas Toast enough.
I know, it's probably the best of toast, would you say?
It is! It is delicious and buttery and thick for no reason.
Right. So yeah, Sunnies barbecue started, pulled pork day and they actually did it in partnership with the national Pork Board.
The Pork Board. The pork board is the stromboli that pulls all the strings in the pork world.
It is. But the barbecue-specific celebrations all happen in May, so May is National Barbecue month makes sense. We just talked about Memorial Day, like getting out and grilling, and that was started in 1963 by the barbecue council. So I was actually trying to research the origins of this barbecue council, I couldn't really find anything about it, but today there is a national barbecue and grilling Association, it was actually founded in the early 1990s, and they wanted to create this organization in order to strengthen the overall barbecue industry because as you can imagine, there was kind of like a lot of separation, maybe a little competition between all the different regional barbeque orgs.
Dude, the regional barbecues are so competitive with each other. In North Carolina alone, there's East and West barbecue.
And they compete over what is real North Carolina, like s*** real.
In Texas too, there's definitely Central versus you know, South East versus West Texas barbecue. So in the 90s, a group of people got together and they're like, it was a very, We Are the World moment, and that we need to have one unified association where we can promote just the overall American barbecue tradition and push awareness of the grilling industry and kind of forget all of these regional differences that divide us, so yeah, the national barbecue and grilling Association launched National Barbecue month, May 16th, is National Barbecue Day and then of course, July 4th is also known as a barbecue day as well.
And then at the end of May, May 28th, we have National Brisket Day. My mouth is watering just thinking about brisket.
Don't worry, don't worry, you're gonna get the sauce. Maybe the sauce will. The sauce will be enough to trick your brain.
Okay, good. So brisket day, of course, celebrates this very specific cut of meat. Its very tough because it's a rich chest muscle, I mean, it's one of the toughest cuts out there, but when you cook it low and slow, you end up with one of the softest butteriest tastiest cuts, so it's actually quite inexpensive, but you put a lot of labor into turning that brisket into the glorious meat that it is. And it's one of nine primal cuts of beef.
Oh primal cuts.
And I knew there were all kinds of...Beef cuts, but I never really knew the term, so in case you're wondering, the other cuts that people talk about are like Chuck, rib, shortline, sirloin, the round, the fore shank short plate and the flank. So brisket is just one of those many cuts, and I'm sure people have seen those pictures at the butcher shop or at World Market, and some sort of like kitchen decoration with like cuts of meat.
That's always very disturbing to me, it was just like, “Here's a map of this cut flesh for you to eat…” They've got like dotted lines.
It's like perforated. And now people were like smoking meats as a way to preserve them, to kill the bacteria, because back in the day, you couldn't really take your meat, get it fresh and store in your fridge or freezer, like pre-refrigerator freezer days. So when a butcher would kill the cattle, they basically had like 48 hours to eat it or do something with it, or the meat would go bad. But what would happen is now you have all this leftover meat that was getting ready to go bad, so you had to just figure out some way to preserve it, so smoking it was a really great way to kind of keep it age it and have it cooked and ready for later. But one of the things I'm excited about talking about brisket is now that I live in Texas, Texas, basically all about the brisket. But there are regional differences in Texas, like we were talking about before. So for instance, the type of wood that you use for your brisket depends on the region, so in Central Texas, people prefer to use oak and piKAHNn wood in west Texas.
Or PEE can wood.
FX: “That’s a Callback”
We are a house divided. When it comes to pecan and pecan. We get into this all the time.
That's right, but we... We co-exist. We are unified, a unified team so let us be a model...
That's right. We make it work. With barbecue, people tend to think of it as like the super male-dominated space because it's meat, it's fire, but something that I'm really appreciating and I'm loving, that's happening right now is sort of like spotlight on women who are pit masters because there are many of them... They're actually a ton that are like rising up and taking over and sort of changing what being, a pit master looks like.
I love it. Why do guys get meat and fire and we get salad...
Yeah, exactly. It doesn't make any sense.
It's ridiculous. It's the patriarchy.
When we were talking about Bacon in season one, the whole Iowa Porkettes group started was because these were the women who actually knew how to cook and use the pork that was made.
So it makes sense that... Yeah, of course, a lot of this knowledge of how to actually create and quick barbecue would also come from the women,
And so there are several that I could talk about, but I wanted to highlight three of them that are near and dear to me, I'm a fan girl of these three women, I think they're just the coolest, so I wanna talk about Tootsie , kim, and Eliana.
I wanna hear about Tootsie, Kim and Eliana.
Oh my gosh, so these women are amazing. So Tootsie, her legal name was Norma Frances Tomanits. So Tootsie just turned 86, and for the past 20 years, she has been the pit master at the legendary Snows Barbecue here in Lexington, Texas. And it really wouldn't be there if it weren't for Tootsie. So the owner of Snows is a guy named Cary Bexley, and he wanted to open up a barbeque joint, but in order to do that, you gotta have a great barbecue pit master, Right?
So he had one person in mind, and it was Tootsie, he had spent years trying to convince convince Tootsie to do this, and so the reason he knew about Tootsie was that Tootsie, and her husband used to run a local place called the City meat market, where husband was as a butcher, and then she actually ended up being a butcher herself because one day they were short-staffed and she just had to step in. And so the next thing you know, she's become an amazing butcher, she's also the person that starts cooking meat, like managing their brick smokers outside, and over that time just became this really well-known pitmaster in the area. And then in the late 90s, her husband had a stroke, so they had to shut down the market, but Tootsie continued to just cook, so she decided to cook for the new owners who took over the market, so she kind of was already like this figure in the area, and so when Cary wanted to start up the barbecue joint, he just knew if I was going to get someone to be the Pit master, I gotta have Tootsie. So he had been going to the market for years and eventually convinced her to do it. So the thing with Tootsie is she is a hard worker in addition to just working at this meat market... She was working as a janitor or a maintenance person at a local high school during the week, and then on Saturdays, she gets up at 2 AM, heads over to Snows and starts the fires.
And she's a janitor now at 86...
I hope she's just dusting the desk... I don't wanna hear that Tootsie at 86 years old is cleaning toilets, come on.
But she is so strong and tough, people are like, Oh yeah, you see Tootsie lifting a hunk of meat, like 150 pounds of meat just over her shoulder and Carrying it from meat locker over to the pit, and then she's also loading in like the wood into these pits, moving the steel grates indoors, and it's just Tootsie. And she's 5'3.
She's a 5'3, 86-year-old great grandmother who is the best pitmaster probably in this area of Texas.
This is one of those people that really puts into focus on how little I can do.
Right. Because of Tootsie, Snow’s Barbecue has been named one of the best barbecue places in Texas. Tootsie herself has been a semi-finalist for James Beard Award.
Cool! /I love that.
Because of her barbecuing. /She's featured in a Netflix special, I mean, you know she's got the Netflix spotlight on her. And she is just super physical and passionate about making the best barbecue.
She probably has, like a way she likes the coals to be laid out at the right time to put on the meat and everything, I'm sure she's got a fine-tuned machine to make this barbeque. She's like, I don't need these young whipper-snappers putting out my coals.
I think someone asked her like, “So what temperature do you fire your meat at?” And she's like, “I don't know the temperature, I just know when I put my hand over this flame, it needs to feel like a certain way.”
That is awesome. I also wanna know why she's called Tootsie.
I heard that it was a nickname given to her as a kid. And it just stuck. Also, apparently when she was little, people used to ask Tootsie what she wanted to be when she grew up. And she’d say, “I think I could be a cowboy.”
I mean, close enough. She's a pitmaster.
Right? Yeah, they both seem like hard work. But that’s what Tootsie loves. Here’s a great clip of her talking about why she enjoys cooking barbecue and the impact she’s had on Snow’s BBQ in her small town of Lexington, Texas.
0:22:09 FX: CLIP, “Bullock History Museum” about Tootsie
Tootsie: It's not an easy job. You have to have determination and a love for the work of it to be a success with it. I don't really know why I enjoy cooking barbeque. I enjoy meeting people and I enjoy putting out a pretty product. Here in central Texas thats all we really know is barbeque.
Speaker 1: I know Snows Texas history. I know a lot of it revolves around miss Tootsie being an 80 year old pit master and being a woman. And we appreciate all the people that have come to visit us. To put Lexington on the map.
The other female pit master I wanna talk about is Kim Dunn. Kim Dunn is actually a Korean-born woman, and she owns a place called The Pit Stop barbecue in Temple, Texas, and I've eaten there and it is fantastic. And Kim has the kind of like sassy attitude, which I love, so somebody once asked her like, what is it like to be a woman Pitmaster, and her response was, We're multi-talented. I don't care how you look at it, I can have a baby and clean house and go work like a man does and come home and take care of the family too. So think about it. We are multi-talented women are... So yeah, I love Kims attitude.
Yes we are.
So when she came to America, it was back in the mid-70s, and she actually didn't speak English or anything, so it was really just coming here, fresh, new immigrant, learning a new way of life, learning English, going to school, and then eventually over time, after years of working, she met her husband who was in the Air Force, and she ended up working like catering at the military base.
She ended up being like a food manager, and then she ended up being an owner operator for some fast-casual joints like a Burger King and a Popeyes. And what she would do was train with these restaurants and then open them up like an other military bases as well. And after doing that for 20-something years when she retired, she decided that retirement is kind of boring, so why don't I open up my own barbecue spot.
I love that.
So at age 62, she opened up her own barbecue joint out in Temple, TX, the Pit Stop Barbecue, and people are always a little bit curious when they see you roll up to this tiny barbeque place an d then you see an Asian woman at the barbecue pit. And she said that sometimes people would see her at the window and just turn around 'cause they're like, What... How would she know how to make good barbecue?
Oh my gosh. Rude.
I know, but let me tell you, she makes amazing barbecue, and what I love about her menu is that it honors both all of the different Texas traditional styles, but also has a Korean menu, and it makes sense like we're just talking about Korean barbecue and the cooking of that meat also over flame, so it just totally makes sense that she would know how to use those same techniques and making a very traditional Texas barbecue...
Right, well, if she opened this up in the 90s, it meant that she'd been in America for 20 years. That's her home as well. Right.
Of course, she would have both backgrounds and loves for both food.
Exactly, and so at her restaurant...
I'm just wondering what the thought process of seeing an Asian woman who being like “an Asian woman definitely can't put meat over or I'm out of here.”
Is that crazy? Yeah, she's like, People are curious, like I guess it's probably folks... The same folks who ask, How did you learn to speak English so well? That kind of thing. “How did you learn how to cook? Cook meat over the fire.”
Yeah. How did you know to put meat over the fire?
Good for you. So inspiring.
But Kim, she can cook that meat over the fire and it is good. And her menu is wonderful, so when I stopped up there, of course, I had to get the brisket, which was really delicious and the... Her kimchi, her homemade kimchi was delicious and that pairing is amazing.
Yeah, 'cause Kimchi is kind of coleslaw adjacent.
So I can see that being good. I'm not a huge kimchi, the person, but in the right combo, it's definitely a great complementary flavor.
Yeah, it’s an awesome combo, and I just really admire her for putting Korean dishes on the menu. She’s bold, energetic, determined, and one hundred percent herself. And when you hear Kim speak, like in this clip, you can tell that she is the realest person out there.
0:26:35 FX: CLIP, Texas Monthly about Kim Dunn
Kim: My name is Akim, everybody calls me Kim. I retired in 2006 and got bored. Barbeque places can not be boring. Pfeww they go. Have to have a little more fun. Its like a home. Its not a fancy restaurant. When a customer tastes food, thats the best part of it. Its like a million dollars when you see their expression. Thats my favorite part.
Now let me tell you about my favorite barbecue place in the Austin, Texas area. It’s called Valentina’s, and I’ve gone there more times than I can count. It’s a Latino-owned, family-owned business with the best brisket I’ve ever had it my life. Everything is so good there because it’s all “hecho con amor” — “made with love.”
Made with love!
Yup! The meat is tender and juicy, their brisket tacos are to die for, the tortillas are homemade — they’ll press the on the spot! But one of the reasons why I’m such a Valentina’s fan is because of their new rising star Pitmaster. Sh e’s a young woman who just turned 21/
and her name is Eliana Gutierrez.
Oh no. This is also gonna make me feel like I've never done anything in life. Alright, lets hear it.
Eliana is the youngest female pitmaster in Texas. And I think it’s safe to say that she’s the youngest female postmaster in the country. She started working at Valentina’s as a food runner when she was a teenager, and she decided she wanted to learn how to barbecue. So she straight up asked Miguel Vidal, the owner who’s an amazing Latino chef, if he could teach her — and he said yes.
She's a go getter. She's a self starter. I love it.
Miguel gave her lessons on butchering, how to fire the meat, how to smoke it, and how to plate it. And as part of this plan to help Eliana become the best pit master, Miguel also introduced her to other great, award winning pit masters across the country, so that she could learn from them and have amazing mentors in the barbecue world.
When he was asked in an interview about why he decided to make Eliana his apprentice, Miguel said, “Not only is Eliana going to be a great postmaster, she’s going to be an inspiration for the entire Hispanic female community.” Eliana started her pit master’s apprenticeship a little over a year ago, and it’s so cool to be watching this young woman on her journey. She’s got that determination and grit, just like Tootsie and Kim, and in this recent news interview, you can hear why she has that drive to be a barbecue great.
0:29:14 FX: CLIP, Austin Fox7 re Eliana
Eliana: Our motto is that everything is made with love. “hecho con amor” So to us, to me thats a big deal. I have it tattooed on my body for a reason.
Speaker 1: It is that love that has put Eliana on track to become one of the youngest pitmasters in the United States.
Eliana: I understand its a little different to have like a 21 year old girl smoking 40 briskets and serving them up, but I mean I would be lying if I didn't say it is taking a big toll on me. I kind of have mentally pushed through that. But at the same time, Im doing it for a good reason. I am who I am and I came to a place that was familiar to me. A place that is surrounded by fellow latinos. A place uh, this like great restaurant and I feel like being here and It makes me happy that I do what I do.
Awesome. What I love about all these women and all these stories reminds me of American barbecue as a whole, which is they're just sort of... It takes a lot of patients, like we talked about, hard work, a lot of skill and knowledge, but then you bring your own culture and your own signature and your own flavor to that style of barbecuing and it can open up a whole new side of it and I think that's so cool. Like everything in America, it's a mishmash, all kinds of influences, and it sounds like the three of these awesome women are carrying that on.
Well, I guess I gotta go to Texas.
I think so.
Thank you, Lia.
Now let's pull back a little bit and talk about some other regional barbecues. You with me.
I am with you. Let's do it.
Alright, so coming up next. It's a deep dish.
So like I said earlier , although I love barbecue, I am not from the belt I have lived... I've lived my whole life on one coast or the other… I'm a coastal elite.
You one of those coastal elites...
I'm one of those out of touch coastal elites. You're all cancelled. So to me, it's just like this one big category of yummy food, and then the nuance is kind of lost on me, so when people are like, This is Mississippi barbecue. I'm like, Is it meat with sauce? Sounds good to me.
That's all you need to know, really.
Do I get a biscuit? I know that there are distinct regional barbecue styles flavors, meats, sauces, but I don't really understand them. So when we said we were gonna do barbecue, I was like, now is my chance. That's what I wanna cover today. But of course, once I really sunk my teeth into the subject, there was way more to it than just a flavor or cuts of meat. Each one of these Regional barbecue styles is influenced by that region's history.
And like we said, all of America's history, those influences come from all over the indigenous people who lived there, originally the early Spanish and British explorers and settlers who ended up there, the enslaved Africans and their descendants who did most of the actual cooking of the barbecue. European immigrants that arrived in later centuries, it's definitely a beautiful example of that melting pot.
So I'm excited to talk about that. Lia and I talk a lot about what does it mean to be American or for something to be American. Because we are both Americans, we are both citizens, we’ve lived here most of our lives. Neither of us were born here.
We talk a lot about Lia’s Filipino culture. I was actually born in Australia. So if it's about being born here, we don't qualified but we qualify in every other sense, and I feel like that's such a metaphor for so many of these things that we call American, and so they come from other places, but they settle here, mixes it with all these other things and hopefully become the greatest hits version of all these different influences. Yes, I am comparing Lia and I to the wonder of barbecue.
I think that's fair.
It's pretty fair to me.
I'm going to go through four different barbecue regions, the Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City and Texas.
Now, I know there are more. I know there are more and they are all pretty, and they're all special, but these are ones we're going with today, okay guys, so if I skip the Alabama barbecue or the Mississippi barbecue, I mean... Absolutely, no offense, but tiktok, we gotta time limit on this thing, for each of those regions, I'm gonna talk about its origins and influences, flavors, meat cuts and style. You with me, everybody?
Let's do it.
I can hear them all. “Yes Anna!”
Some overall history of what is now US barbecue. Okay, so I want you to picture a mop of the US, and the overall movement of barbecue is north and then west. So it came up from the Caribbean to the southern colonies, Virginia, the Carolinas, and then it moved west from there to Texas. So that area between the Carolinas and Texas. That's your barbeque belt. Okay, so have that picture in your mind, but whenever I think about settlers or anyone moving across America, I just think about Oregon trail…
MX THE OREGON TRAIL THEME
Me too, I can picture it in my head.
Which has nothing to do with Spanish explorers or even this area of the continent, but in my head it's like, Wow, what they died of dysentery.
Dysentery! Was it always dysentery...
There was a lot of like, you broke your bones and died, which I never understood.
That's true or like you couldn't cross the river. You thought you could.
That's right. You couldn't cross the river.
But then you drowned or the general store always got me too, 'cause I was like, Oh, I gotta go shopping, the General Store... I gotta...
You need bullets!
Yeah, you gotta pick out, what do you need in your wagon?
Exactly. The saddest thing was when you went hunting and you killed something, but then it told you it was too much meat to Kerry back. So you've wasted your bullets... I know you can't feed your family.
And now you cant get your meat.
Don't shoot for the Buffalos. Guys, don't shoot.
Yeah, they are too big.
You want the rabbits, you want deer. Don't shoot the Buffalo, you can't Kerry it back to the wagon. Anyway.
MX: Oregon Trail music fades out
The first European actually to mention barbecue in records is Christopher Columbus, that f****** guy is on the island that he called hispaniola, which is now what we called Haiti, the native Taino people had a method of slowly cooking spiced meat over a pit with an indirect flame using green wood, so young would... That wouldn't burn.
And cooking the meat this way, kinda like you talked about, made it less likely to spoil and the smoke drove the insects away.
It's like a citronella candle or something.
Exactly. It's like a Tiki torch. And the Taino called the pit, the Barbacoa.
So that's where that word originally comes from, and it turned in to barbecue in English, and then it became another style of beef, like you talked about a coming up through Mexico. But that's where the word comes from. Barbacoa. Spanish conquistadors saw this in other places in the West Indies and in other native tribes along the Gulf of Mexico, and they really embraced it as they moved up into the American continent. In addition to the overall style, there's still a ton of Caribbean influence in the spices that are used. So like the cayenne, the craked pepper, things like that, is very Caribbean Flavor. So it was brought up into North America, like we said, settled in the southern colonies, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and that's where the oldest US barbecue styles come from. So when people kind of think of OG barbecue or they get competitive with traditional barbecue, a lot of times we're talking about Carolina barbecue.
It became a big part of life, especially in public celebrations, because if you roast a whole hog, you could feed a lot of people.
Yeah, so it was like every time a bridge opened up or a road, Thomas Jefferson was in town. Barbeque. In fact, one barbecue lover big time was none other than George Washington.
No way, I would not have put George Washington into the BBQ love category, but...
I don't know, the wooden teeth, I feel like...
Would kinda get in the way.
But maybe if it was so tender... Fall off the bone barbeque.
Oh, melt in the mouth. That's when you know.
That's what George Washington liked.
If even George Washington could eat your pulled pork, /you did it right.
/That's how you know it's good.
He even recorded all the barbecues he went to in his diaries.
Yes, he recorded at least six, including one that he threw at Lake Accotink, VA, which is near Mount Vernon, his home. And on May 27, 1769, he wrote, “last night, I went into Alexandria for a barbecue and stayed all night.”
Wow. That was some barbecue.
Rager. George Washington was a rager. And actually, May 27th is my birthday, so I just like to think that he was celebrating me like 220 years early.
It was obviously to celebrate you.
He was like, in 220 years, something's gonna happen. I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it in my bones. Can feel it in my wooden teeth. Another group of people who had a big impact on the flavor and style of barbecue for the enslaved West Africans and their descendants who were in the colonies and were the ones often cooking the barbeque. One culinary historian that I read said that grilling meat for a long time over a fire was part of many West African celebrations.
And when hunters would go way out into the savanna to hunt and they killed animals, they had a long track home, so before going home with the meat, they would rub it with spices and smoke it to keep it from spoiling before they could get back to their communities.
Isn't that cool? So we've got our Caribbean influence, you've got a West African influence all converging in, I guess, George Washington's backyard.
MX: “Carolina in my mind” by James Taylor fade in
So since the Carolinas are the oldest, we're gonna start there.
MX: “Carolina in my mind” by James Taylor up and out
There is a definite distinction between North and South Carolina, there's even a rivalry, like I mentioned, between quote Lexington-style and Eastern style in North Carolina, but we are going to try to not get dragged into that family feud.
So, North Carolina their origins and influences, we talked about Spanish, the West Africans, but barbecue was definitely influenced by their colonial overlords, the British, which makes sense.
And what do Brits love?
Their fish and chips.
Vinegar. They love vinegar on their fish and chips. Their salt and vinegar crisps, as ‘twere. So the biggest distinguishing factor for North Carolina barbecue is that the sauce is vinegar-based. Vinegar, the Eastern style is vinegar pepper, the Lexington style is vinegar tomato, but it's vinegar if it's got vinegar in it, it's North Carolina barbecue. And another British influence on the style of North Carolina barbecue was basting.
So they started the tradition of brushing the meat while it was cooking with a mix of vinegar and butter to keep the meat from drying out over the flame, and by the way, in barbeque terminology, a sauce that you based the meat with during cooking is called a mop sauce.
A mop sauce.
I didn't know that, but that makes perfect sense.
Perfect. Yeah, so they don't call it basing the call it mopping, you mop. The meat with the sauce, and the traditional North Carolina meat cut is all of them. The whole hog.
Give me all of them.
The whole hog is North Carolina style. Alright, South Carolina. So a little bit later on, South Carolina started developing its own barbecue personality, and it was very influenced by the large number of French and German immigrants that settled in that area, and what condiment do, French and Germans, both love?
Well, I'm just thinking of like mustard on my brats and...
Exactly. So the biggest distinguishing factor for South Carolina barbecue is that the sauce is mustard-based, so what I said earlier, I don't know what all these regional distinctions are, I just know that the yellowy sauce goes on the pulled pork. Yeah the yellow goes on the pork... This is why South Carolina sauce is mustard-based and they... Again, it's all pork. And there was another German edition to American barbecue at this stage. Coleslaw. Yeah.
I see that now, yeah.
Yeah. Shredded cabbage salad is a traditional German dish. Got brought over. Somebody was like, this goes good with that. A nd just like it's a older sibling, or I guess it's Northern sibling, the whole hog, very traditional Carolina barbecue, and I think the pulled pork, which I guess is made from the whole hog... Anyway, pulled pork, and again, note that since these are the oldest styles, some traditionalists could only consider pork-based barbecue to be the authentic barbecue.
Yes, yes. So for a long time, barbecue, specifically meant pork.
And not beef?
Not chicken. No, we'll get to that.
MX: “Walking in Memphis” Marc Cohn fade in
Now we're gonna move a little bit west to Memphis Tennessee.
MX: “Walking in Memphis” Marc Cohn up and out
Memphis was influenced less by the ethnic settlers there and more by its very important neighbor, the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River was the commercial backbone of this country for a long time, it's how goods were transported, which meant that residents on the Mississippi River, like Memphis, had access to a lot of goods that didn't originate there. They didn't grow there.
So like spices, tomatoes, molasses, which they could use say in barbeque sauce. Their meat is still traditionally pork, they're especially famous for their ribs, the Memphis ribs, there's two styles: wet, meaning-based in the sauce so mopped, and dried. In which only a dry rub has been applied before and during the cooking of it, and all of the flavors are very bold, both in the dry and the wet versions, because all those flavors came from up and down the Mississippi, so the dry rub has salt pepper, paprika, cayenne and sugar primarily, and the wet sauce is a thick tomato-based or sometimes ketchup-based sauce with brown sugar and a ton of spices, I feel a little self-conscious telling you this 'cause you are a Tennesseean, but it... Does it sound about right?
That sounds pretty right, the brown sugar in it, that sweetness of the sauce.
The sweetness with the acid in the tomatoes. So good.
That's pretty good.
And bonus fact, Memphis is the home of the barbecue chicken pizza, which was Elvis and my favorite pizza.
Wait, you and Elvis, both love barbecue chicken pizza.
Yes, we do. Love me some barbecue chicken pizza. Onions barbecue sauce, grilled chicken. So good.
Yeah, that's true. How could it be bad?
It's all good things on one big plate and... Do you put anything on it, it's like when I say favorite pizza... When I say favorite pizza, this is a very, very, very thin margin of all the other pizzas. Okay, so that is T ennessee Memphis pizza.
46:50 MX: “Kansas City,” Wilbert Harrison fades in
Moving on to Kansas City, Missouri. So we're going a little bit up the river.
And across Missouri.
MX: “Kansas City,” Wilbert Harrison up and out
I like this travel, like this tour we are taking.
Are you imagining the wagon?
I am, I'm seeing both of us in our wagon.
We'd shoot a buffalo and it would be like, you can't carry that meat and... Well, we would be like...
How f****** dare we will carry that meat.
We're Carrying it. We're gonna struggle, but we're gonna carry it, it's gonna be the...
How dare you? Who do you think you're talking to?
And you know what, we rubbed it with SPICE and we smoked it a little, so it's gonna be good.
It's gonna be delicious, we're gonna do some amazing crafts with its skin and it's fur and its horns.
We use the whole buffalo.
We use the whole buffalo. So Kansas City barbecue came out of a confluence of a lot of different forces, and really the boom started at the end of the 19th... The beginning of the 20th centuries. So after the Civil War, formerly enslaved people were leaving the South, Kansas City had both a railway line, and it wasn't too far from the Mississippi River, so a lot of Black Americans who were leaving the deep self settled there, and they brought a lot of their cooking food, including barbecue, traditions with them. Kansas City was also the center of the meat packing industry at the time, so meat was plentiful and cheap.
But the person to officially put barbecue on the map was an African-American man named Henry Perry, and he was actually born in Memphis, and when he was a young man, he went to work on steamboats, going up and down the Mississippi River.
Eventually he moved west across Missouri and settled in Kansas City. In 1907, he opened the first official barbecue joint, so people have barbecuing in their homes or backyards, but he opened the first official barbecue joint, which was in an alley in the heart of the black community there, and for 25 cents, you could get a slab of meat wrapped in newspaper.
Oh my God.
So the flavors came from his Memphis roots, the thick tomato or ketchup-based sauces that were really tangy sweet, but he worked in molasses instead of brown sugar.
Oh, okay, I'm seeing this now. Yeah.
Yeah, yeah. And worked in some kind of sharper spices.
Right? Cuz he has access to these...
Exactly, you've been on them steamboats keeping an eye on all the ingredients.
He's like I see you, I see you spice.
Yup. But Henry Perry's biggest influence on American barbecue was in the meat he used, which was every kind...
He was, he was like, guys doing it.
He's like I feel like we're limiting ourselves. Yeah, so he opened up barbecue beyond pork.
In fact, his barbecue joint originally served things like Possum, woodchuck, and raccoon.
That might be a little too open.
We've really swung in the other direction...
He eventually included chicken, fish, salmon and beef.
It Really opened up barbeque, all these different meats. He was best known for brisket, and he's the man that put burnt ends on the fricking map.
I love you, Henry.
Love Henry. 'cause people were making brisket and then throwing out the burned end and he was like why you wasteful... Have you tried these? They are amazing.
They are like the best part.
We have a lot to thank Henry for.
Yes we do.
MX: Texas (When I die) by Tanya Tucker fade in
So we keep moving west in our wagons were going west, were going west and we stop in Texas.
MX: Texas (When I die) by Tanya Tucker, up and out
One of the big influences actually in Texas was this space.
It's pretty darn big.
It's pretty darn big and a lot of fertile land, and not a ton of people, so when you have a lot of space, you can keep cattle.
Yeah got all the room for it.
Yep, so barbeque, as Lia told us, was all about beef. Another influence were the German and Czech settlers that came to Texas... I'll explain in a minute. The flavors in Texas barbecue, and again, I'm generalizing, there are many different styles, but this is overall... So in general, Texas barbecue sauce is tomato-based, mixed with the dripping from the beef.
The sauce is a little bit thinner and it has chilli peppers or chilli paste in it. Which what does that remind us of?
Our Texas chili.
Our Texas Red Chili. /San Antonio Chili. This feels like definitely its cousin.
And the style is very, very focused on the meat and the preparation and the sauce is kind of secondary. And meat, like we said, all about beef, especially the brisket, and this is the first time that you see sausages. Smoked sausages, because remember I said the settlers there were German and Czech to German wurst. Czech kielbasa.
And that's how we get Texas red hots or hot links, or the traditional German term. Hot guts.
Hot guts. Which I just love.
I like hot guts. Why aren't we using hot guts more?
I don't know. It's so descriptive.
I like hot guts.
It just on its own sounds like German. It's like hot guts!
That's a little tour of regional barbecue in the US. And now that we are familiar with that, I think we should taste some sauce... What do you think about that?
Let's taste some sauce. Okay, that was so great, Anna.
Thanks for driving our wagon all the way around the US.
MX TRANSITION - Oregon Trail Theme
I'm gonna get out my brioche. Ive got my... My little condiment cups that I fricking love.
That’s is so nice. I got a big ass plate over here, I just.
Just dump it out on it.
Yeah. Okay, alright, I’ve got my elegant water crackers.
I've got my brioche, my brioche roll, because we ordered this from Amazon Fresh or the... 'cause we order this from a grocery store online for delivery, so it has a shopper go around, they can't find the thing, they just bring you this. So we ask for on dog buns, and they gave us...
Oh, like you could fit a hot dog in it.
You could fit several hot dogs in this brioche log. Alright, Carolina gold.
Open this up.
Oh, I'm sniffing it.
Do you smell vinegar, mustard?
Vinegary. Mustardy. Yeah, it's like a vinegar. Mustard combo smell.
Oh! I can smell that vinegar. You can dump this on a hot dog.
That would be good on a hot dog. Actually this would be really good on a hot dog.
Alright, we're just gonna shotgun some... We're just gonna shotgun some sauce everybody.
Just pouring it on this water cracker.
How is it gonna work, I wanna watch you do this.
Oh my God, it's gonna be all over our closet...
You mean home studio?
Here we go. I mean, my studio. Alright, here we go.
Here we go.
Oh yeah, that's good.
That's good. Are We Starving? Or is it good?
I don't know, I'm pretty hungry.
But you really get the acid of the vinegar that sharpness.
Yeah, there's a zing, a zest to it. A little pepperiness.
I like it.
A little bit of sweetness. I'm a fan. It's kind of lighter, a little bit of it.
It's definitely like runnier, thinner than a tomato-based ones. Yeah, but it's definitely got a lighter flavor... This is going well.
I like this, You know what, this barbecue and cracker thing, it's not that bad.
Alright, next we move on to Memphis, and You're gonna try... You're gonna try to be impartial.
Yeah, I'm going to try really hard.
Oh yeah. This one is thick. This one's got...
It is thick!
Its got that it's got a ketchup texture.
I'm gonna have to slap the bottom of this bottle to get the... Oh S***! ! It did the thing just like in a Heinz bottle, you know where you're trying to get the Ketchup out.
I just poured out a ton.
How many crackers did you cover with it? Are you gunna have enough crakers?
I covered most of my handful of crackers, but... It's alright, it's okay. I'll eat it. It definitely sweeter. Way sweeter.
Very sweet. And tangy.
There's a little bit of that hickory smokiness to it.
Smoke in it./ Yeah, I can taste that too. Yeah.
It kinda hits the back of my throat a little bit more than I thought it would...
Yeah, agreed. Yeah. At first you taste the, I tasted the tomato real hard at first...
And then the other flavors kinda come in towards the back of your mouth, I'm having to...
But definitely more like Ketchup.
Yes, it has a spicy Ketchup taste.
It's spicy ketchup!
Basically spicy you ketchup. Not bad.
Alright, next we got Kansas City.
I'm excited about the Kansas City...
I don't think I've really had that much Kansas City barbecue because I've had tons of Carolina style and of course, Memphis style from me in Tennessee, but I don't really think I've had Kansas City barbecue that much.
Well nows your chance. So again, this one is also a tomato-based, but uses molasses either instead are with the brown sugar and got more kick... Got more spice to it. Per my research. Let's see how that holds up.
Yeah, even in color. It's definitely more brown.
Oh s***, I'm still trying to get mine out of the bottle.
Be warned, it's gonna pour out just like the...
A gentle spanking. A gentle spanking. A warning spanking. Alright, man, that is thick... It's gonna be the molasses with the tomato, right. Alright, I'm going in.
Oh, that's different. That's real different.
Wow, I can see it on ribs.
Ribs are so salty.
Yeah. This would be an amazing balance to the ribs, but definitely on the cracker, that molassesy part...
It really hits you... I mean, it's good. I'm finishing the rest of the crackers.
That's the most intense of the three. Kansas City. Oh, it just hit my throat, I can...
It kind of goes back up through your nose too...
Yes, like a whole pound of pepper in that.
My nasal passages have opened up./
/Wide open. We should have done this at the top. Cleared us all out... So this is definitely more similar in flavor and texture to the Memphis... Definitely then the Carolina.
It's so funny that they're like barbecue, but they're so different. But this does not taste like spicy ketchup.
This has a totally distinct flavor, alright, I'm gonna stop...
It's a deep, deep flavor. Sweet sour smoky.
Alright, shall I join you in Texas?
Yeah, come on over.
Sweet. Oh yeah, this one is definitely more runny.
Yeah, still dark. Not as dark as the Kansas City. That's the tomato. Alright, you're ready.
Tomatoey For sure.
I can taste the chili pepper.
Yeah, the chili is hitting my tongue.
Yeah, the Chili pepper, and the chili paste...
This tastes like what you would put in a Texas bowl of red, it has the same flavors like that bowl of red.
Yeah, I can see the flex... When I put it out on my brioche. it's spicy.
It's got spice.
Got a kick. This is the best idea we’ve ever had. Okay, so that's our four regions.
I think of those for the Carolina and the Kansas City. They're very different, but I think those two are my faves... What do you think?
My favorite is Carolina. Yeah, I love the vinegary to it, and maybe because in a lot of Filipino meat dishes too, there's a ton of vinegar, so that's kind of like... Yeah. That use of vinegar. It just feels like home to me. But I mean... These are all delicious.
These are all delicious.
I could just sit here, I probably will sit here and mop up the rest of the sauce and the little cups... I don't wanna waste it. And now our special guest star. We've got a special sauce, we didn't talk about this today, but it's a little call back to our pineapple episode 'cause we've got Hawaiian-style barbecue sauce.
I didn't look up what, what uh Hawaiian barbecue is, but I'm assuming it's similar to like poi is that right? No. You've been Hawaii, not me. It's really sweet. /Holy s***.
/It smells like pineapple juice.
Oh my God, it smells like syrup. Alright, it's very dark, so I'm gonna guess there's tomato paste in there somewhere. Alright, here we go. Okay, oh my God.
Oh my God.
So, you know, if you get canned pineapple and it's in heavy syrup, it's like a... If you mixed that heavy pineapple syrup with ketchup...
Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Hawaiian barbeque sauce...
Back of the line. Oh. Man. It's almost like jelly. It almost tastes like strawberry jelly.
It does, doesn't it.
Gotta get some peanut butter in here.
You know what... Yeah, you would put this like, it's a dessert sauce, you could top your ice cream with the Hawaiian barbeque sauce.
Oh man, that's really.../really not good.
There was so much potential... Going back to this...
Now we gotta eat a whole bottle of it...
Well, maybe we can use that in a pineapple upside down cake. That tastes insane.
Yeah, so it says there's a little bit of Tamarind and in it.
Molasses. Of course, tons of corn syrup and pineapple juice concentrate, that's 'cause when I sniffed it, I was like, it smells like pineapple juice...
Alright. That was a shocker after all those other really dark tangy.
This one definitely needs to be on a meat...
Yeah, it needs a lot of it or maybe just on a pile of salt... Right. Something to counteract it.
Yeah, 'cause that is sweet.
So Anna, the Carolina, is that your... Is that your top?
I think... I think Carolina is my final answer. Final answer.
Yeah, yeah, final answer for me too.
But, I'm glad we tasted all of them. 'cause now I have a really informed decision.
/Right. Well, now it's interesting 'cause when we have these different sauces or different styles, now going through the research and traveling through the regions with you, it makes so much sense.
Right, I thought that was so fun. And I know every time I have barbecue from now on, I'm gonna be thinking of all these influences and history and where it came from, and you know, listeners, I hope you will too. I hope that we added even another layer of wonder to your barbecue experiences.
Thank you for joining us for this episode of Every Day is a Food Day. We’re taking a couple weeks off but we’ll be back with fresh, new episodes on June 15th.
In the meantime, you can catch up on Season 1 and 2 episodes you may have missed. You could get to know the Iowa Porkettes in our Bacon episode,. Or be inspired to invest in some security cameras after hearing about the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist in our maple syrup episode. Listen wherever you get to podcasts. The clips and music you heard today were the theme to The Oregon Trail from Gameloft, “Carolina in my mind” by James Taylor, “Walkin’ in Memphis” by Marc Cohn, “Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison and “Texas when I die” by Tanya Tucker.
You also hear clips from the Bullock state History Museum’s Texas Story Project, Texas Monthly's small town smoker series, and Fox 7 Austin News. Please subscribe, rate and review the show! Check out the links in our show notes and connect with us on social media @FoodDayPod
Every Day is a Food Day is a production of Van Valin Production & Yumday. It is produced & hosted by us, Lia Ballentine & Anna Van Valin. Our marketing intern is Elaine Oh, our production intern is Emma Massey.
We’ll see you next time!