I think Calvin Trillin may have read Jim Shahin’s article in the Washington Post, because he has an article in the New Yorker that covers some of the same ground. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/02/in-defense-of-the-true-cue. Or maybe he just wanted the magazine to pay for him to go to North Carolina and eat barbecue. Who wouldn’t?
Trillin focuses on the Campaign for Real Barbecue, http://www.truecue.org, a group that identifies and documents barbecue places that cook with wood rather than gas or electricity. In Trillin’s telling, they are not fanatics — good-natured cranks, maybe, who care deeply about maintaining barbecue traditions and also about the difference between East Carolina barbecue and Piedmont barbecue. (In the Piedmont they put some ketchup in the sauce in addition to vinegar and red pepper, but not so much that isn’t still fundamentally a vinegar and pepper sauce that happens to be red). They engage in the sort of genial trash talk that Southerners do when drinking reasonable amounts of bourbon (“People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of most anything.”) It’s sort of like the way Alabama fans say that Tennessee fans wear orange so that they can watch football on Saturday, go hunting on Sunday, and pick up trash by the side of the road on Monday. Genial trash talk with no ill will behind it — now that Tennessee is no longer a contender, anyway.
I am generally sympathetic to people who sit around drinking reasonable amounts of bourbon and engaging in genial trash talk and I’m certainly sympathetic to the Campaign for Real Barbecue. These are indeed the times that try men’s souls. And women’s. I’m more oriented to solving problems than sharing my feelings about them, or so I have been told. If you think the glass is half empty, get a refill. A good start toward solving the problem would be to devote the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts to training pit masters all over the United States. And why don’t we have a barbecue czar? I’m willing to serve.