Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BBQ Book Review - Searching for the Dixie Barbecue

Title: Searching for the Dixie Barbecue
Author: Wilber W. Caldwell
Published: 2005 by Pineapple Press

The tedious search for the "Real Dixie Barbecue" is discussed at length in this book. The back cover promises to answer three questions: "What is 'real' barbecue?", "How do you find it?", and "What does it mean to be Southern". What it mostly includes is the author's long list of rules the determine if you're eating good barbecue (taste wasn't mentioned as one of those factors). Being a true Georgia boy, he takes a few cheap shots at Texas because Texans are "obnoxious" and we "bask in an abrasive aura of exclusivity" (sounds like someone's jealous). Because of these inherent flaws, the "Real Dixie Barbecue" cannot be found in the Lone Star State, or maybe it's just because we like brisket.

It would have been good if the author would introduce us to a few of the characters that he met on his journey. Only a few are included like Howard Thaxton who is beloved mainly for serving decent 'cue in the midst of complete squalor. Dora Williams and Kate Hardy are profiled for serving very fine smoked meat, but the author seems reluctant to admit their prowess simply because they offer more than pulled pork and ribs. Explanations of the history and varied recipes of Brunswick Stew along with discussions about choosing a good smoking wood are intriguing, but the rest of the book was nearly unreadable. In the author's constant attempt to be colloquial, he included so many apostrophes and phonetic spellings I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn't reading Huck Finn.

By the end of the book, all I could wonder was who is the intended audience? Is it a guide for the "Yankees" that are so derided in these pages that they'd likely stop reading after just a few pages of Confederate rhetoric, or is it a guide for Southerners that wouldn't seem to care that such a needless guide existed according to the author? Methinks it might just be the babbling of one man who wants to share his personal "rules" for determining the worthiness of any Southern barbecue place all while disguising his ramblings as the generally accepted views of an entire population.

On a positive note, it is full of great black & white pictures of run down BBQ joints in the South. I just wish there was a bit more explanations in the captions than just the city and state that the photo was taken. I guess you're just expected to know, that is if you're Southern.

- BBQ Snob

1 comment:

Robert King said...

I just read this book a couple weeks ago. I pretty much agree with what you say. I guess I'm a "Yankee" but my parents are Southern. It managed to kind of annoy me from both sides of the fence whether I'm Southern or a Yankee.

It was an entertaining read and I really liked the photos but as you I was looking for more information on where these "special" places are located. Perhaps we need a passport to go there.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.