The Politics of Barbecue

The New York Times has an op-ed today by John Shelton Reed on barbecue and politics in North Carolina.  It doesn’t get into the substance of barbecue, which is just as well since the New York Times is a welter of ignorance when it comes to barbecue, and it is a tender mercy when it doesn’t say anything.  Mr. Reed is always amusing, however, and the op-ed shines especially bright next to the crushing predicability of several regular Times columnists.  It is well worth reading.

I do have a serious disagreement with one point in the op-ed.   Mr. Reed suggests that a Raleigh News and Observer report of Rick Perry’s unfavorable comparison of eastern North Carolina barbecue to road kill, uttered back when Perry was the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, had hurt — perhaps cosmically doomed — Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign .

Actually, that sort of trash talk about the barbecue in other regions is a feature of many barbecue discussions, as Mr. Reed well knows and appreciates.  Reed’s magnum opus, The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, quotes a typical eastern North Carolina slam against Piedmont North Carolina barbecue sauce: it is “made with John Kerry’s wife’s ketchup vs. God’s own apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper” and, “someone who would put ketchup on barbecue and serve it to a child is capable of pretty much anything.”

North Carolina voters could well have seen in Perry’s vivid hyperbole and in his loyalty to his own state’s barbecue evidence of a kindred spirit — albeit a benighted one, bless his heart.  As it was, Perry’s campaign collapsed in (or before) Iowa.  Looking back, the statement now seems like the high point of Perry’s presidential campaign.



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