A Southern Cultural Icon

By Laura Dove

When travelling through the South, your best bet for authentic and carefully prepared Southern cuisine is any of the many barbecue restaurants that dot the landscape. Don't be fooled by the casual atmosphere in most of these barbecue joints; these are the places where the legacy of Southern food is vigilantly protected. In the Southern United States, barbecue is a cherished cultural icon. In other areas of America, "barbecue" is a verb-- Northerners barbecue food on the backyard grill. In the South, however, barbecue is most definitely a noun. A barbecue is a gathering of food aficionados who appreciate the aroma of roasted meat that has been painstakingly smoked for several hours. Barbecue itself is chopped, sliced, or pulled meat liberally doused with a variety of (closely guarded) sauces. This meat is usually pork, unless you are in Texas or some parts of Kentucky (where barbecue means beef or mutton). Most Southerners take their barbecue very seriously, refining methods of preparation and fiercely defending the preeminence of their favorite sauce recipes. There are few things in the South more universally revered than good barbecue, and deconstructing barbecue is a study in the culture of the South.