Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Fork in the Road

It's not often that a book comes out that I had a hand in. The Prophets of Smoked Meat that came out this May was my first. A Fork in the Road was my second. The book's editor James Oseland asked (or maybe it was suggested to him) that I provide a short account of a food/travel story for the collection. I was excited to write it, and even more giddy when it arrived in the mail this week.

I quickly read throughout the story of traveling through Georgia eating barbecue. These trips took place over several months as my architecture career wound down, and the possibility that I might write about barbecue for living started to take shape. I got to the final line. "We were already late for the next stop." I gasped. There were several paragraphs missing.

A call to James Oseland was met with the same baffled response that I had. He hadn't made the change, and the publisher who had worked on the project was no longer with Lonely Planet. There was no quick way to find out what had transpired, and regardless of the answer the book was already on the shelves. Below is the final sentence that made it into the print version and the four missing paragraphs. Enjoy, as this is the only place you'll see how the story really ends for the time being.

We were already late for the next stop. 
A new location of Grand Champion BBQ had just opened and our friends Dustin and Steven were waiting patiently with owner Robert Owens, who had been kind enough to leave the joint open just for our meal. A feast was laid before us on a large platter and we clawed at the meat, whose quality at this late hour was remarkable. Slices of brisket were well above respectable, pork ribs were tender but in need of smoke, and the pulled pork was so loaded with well-rendered fat and caramelized crust that it was downright decadent. A dip in their thin spicy sauce heightened it. I could have kept eating, but the hour was now late and I was a long way from Warner Robins. I said goodbye to Bill and we both hoped my next visit to Atlanta would be just for the barbecue.  
The final inspection for the project went off without a hitch the following day, so I again found myself with a few extra hours. I drove straight north, right back to Marietta, where Dave Poe’s former business partner Sam Huff manned the pits at Sam’s BBQ1. The menu was a replica of Dave Poe’s, but the only item I preferred here was the stew.  
I dreaded the idea of having eaten at Heirloom Market BBQ only once, so this became my final stop. I thought I was just going to reminisce over a few old favorites, but this time I noticed the chunks of meat in the Korean pork sandwich were chopped rib ends rather than simple pulled pork shoulder. Their tighter muscle structure made for meat with a bit more resistance. I didn’t think the stew could be topped as a side item until I took a bite of the bacon creamed corn, which was richly flavored with smoked pork belly. When I tipped the bowl back to get the last drop, I noticed the banana pudding. It was dense with bananas and had an elegant topping of the lightest meringue. I consider myself a connoisseur of banana pudding and I haven’t had much that matches this. 
Back at the airport I said what will probably be my final goodbye to Roosevelt at the rental counter. This was my last Georgia trip that I would expense back to the firm. I passed him a container of still chilly banana pudding. I didn’t get to see the look on his face when he took a bite, but I’d like to think he licked the bowl. That wasn’t the only unanswered question. What of this Georgia barbecue style? The old tradition of pork, slaw and Brunswick stew still has a solid grasp in rural Georgia, but the new joints in Atlanta put just as much stock in their brisket and Mac N Cheese. Some of these innovations will fade and others will become just as entrenched in tradition as the chopped pork at Fresh Air, but the thread that ties them all together is that wonderful omnipresent stew.

This is one of those situations where there's no need to cry about it. Nothing can be done unless there is a second printing. If you bought the book and wondered why I can't finish a story properly here's your answer. I'll also remind you that there are thirty-three other great, and complete, stories in the collection that is A Fork in the Road. Thanks again to James Oseland for including me in such great company, and here's to a second printing.


Anonymous said...

Good to see you back online. I'd been wondering what had happened to you.

artiger said...

Yeah, good to see you posting again. One of the things I love about BBQ is the differences in it from one place to the next. And it's all good!

BBQ Snob said...

To everyone - Thanks for noticing that I haven't been posting here. I've been writing almost daily on since May when I started working for Texas Monthly. You can find reviews, interviews and all kinds of BBQ-related items 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.