Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Those of us who live in upland places such as the Piedmont may get the notion that the main argument over barbecue in North Carolina is about Eastern N.C. style -- that is, whole hog, with a dip made mostly from water and vinegar and spices -- versus the Piedmont style (pork shoulders, and some tomatoes [not tomatories, as errant fingers first wrote] in the sauce), and varying grades of Western style barbecue that I can't even accurately describe because there are so many of them, with varying levels of tomatoes in the sauce.
But in an exchange of e-mails the other day with my friend Sam Watts, a wise political policy analyst who hails from the mother-church-region for barbecue in Eastern N.C., I discovered a whole new range of argument -- over how to best cut up or otherwise liberate for human consumption what Dennis Rogers calls the "Holy Grub."
Sam, an Edgecombe County boy shown at the cooker, is an advocate of "Rocky Mount Rough Chop" -- far more desirable, he believes, than some of that barbecued mincemeat you get elswhere. I asked him to elaborate. Here's what he said:
I doubt that the term "Rocky Mount Rough Chop" has ever made it into any respectable publication. I grew up in Edgecombe and Nash Counties and "rough chop" is how we describe the compromise position between a "fine chop" that you put in a pan or an igloo cooler and take inside and serve on a table and pure "buzzard style," where you peel back the ribs and make everyone pull the meat themselves.
Used in conversation, it would be, "My cousin, he did a rough chop and left hit on the cooker for everyone to git some." It is my belief, after sampling some mighty fine swine from all over state, that rough chopping is more common the closer you get to Rocky Mount. Hence as the epicenter of the style, Rocky Mount deserves the naming rights.
I have attached pictures from a rough chop of a 120 pound hog from this summer. (It was here, but it was a family gathering with half the crowd being from Rocky Mount.) Essentially, it is a course (correction: coarse) cut barbeque served from the grill in the skin. You debone it, rough chop it, mix up the meat types, and sauce it.
The last thing I would ever want to do is to cause discord among the eastern N.C.-style barbeque eating community, because we have enough discord with folks from outside the region already. But, I like the Rocky Mount Rough Chop better than the more minced style that seems to have its epicenter around Wayne County and better than pure buzzard style, which is the probably the original format for the cuisine, for at least four reasons:
(1) Since you serve it from the grill, you can keep it warm more easily. Warm barbeque is good.
(2) When you de-bone it and cut it up, you increase the speed at which people can be served and you decrease the odds that when Aunt Minnie pulls some shoulder meat, she gets a knuckle bone on her plate.
(3) You get to mix up the types of meat on the hog to get the best of both ends on each plate.
(4) When you leave larger chunks, the pig itself brings a more to the flavor party rather than the barbeque being all about the sauce.
I intend no disrespect towards any of the other Eastern N.C. styles out there, but the RMRC is my preferred style. Hope all is well.
Posted by Jack Betts at 3:13 PM