Barbecue Digest: Don't whitewash BBQ
POSTED: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 7:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 7:14pm
Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance - a member-supported organization of more than 800 chefs, academics, writers and eaters devoted to the documentation, study, and celebration the diverse food cultures of the changing American South - will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. As a loud, proud SFA member, I'm pleased to say that Eatocracy will be partnering with them to share some of their stories. Dig in. - Kat Kinsman, Managing Editor
(CNN) -- The coming and passing of National Barbecue Month (commonly called "May" by others) tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's the month when a lot of media outlets (magazines, newspapers, and television) remind us that barbecue season has officially begun. They mark the occasion by profiling notable pitmasters, sharing recipes and tips, and, as a bonus, providing a roundup of the best barbecue joints in your area or in the entire country.
What's regularly missing in these features are shout-outs to African Americans. Such omissions are troubling given the overwhelming contribution that African Americans have made, and continue to make, to the American barbecue tradition. Like good barbecue, my annoyance over this subject has been burning like a slow fire, and it hit a flashpoint last year.
The Food Network aired Best in Smoke - a barbecue competition show that featured six contestants, six assistants, one host, three judges...and no black people. Think I'm hypersensitive? Then imagine watching a country music special that only featured interviews with Charley Pride and Darius Rucker. Wouldn't you think there was something wrong with that picture?
In contrast to mass media outlets like the Food Network, the SFA's oral history and documentary film initiatives have paid homage to many African-American pitmasters. Check out CUT/CHOP/COOK, a film by Joe York about Rodney Scott of Hemingway, South Carolina. And explore the oral history interviews on the Southern BBQ Trail. Many of them feature African American subjects, from Helen Turner of Tennessee to Gerri and Stephen Grady of North Carolina (and over a dozen more).
Today's installment comes courtesy of Adrian Miller, a culinary historian, certified barbecue judge and author of an upcoming book about soul food. Follow him on Twitter at @soulfoodscholar.
Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog (http://southernfoodways.blogspot.com/)