Here in North Carolina barbecue is a religion.
Even as that period landed on the end of the sentence, people in Georgia, Texas and Kansas were revving up to hunt me down and slap me with a sauce mop. This is not to say that Holy BBQ does not exist in these other venerable states. It does! It's just that I live here and can witness and testify to the bounty of holy gifts our most gracious swine bless us with. So, simmer down!
Were you aware there is a barbecue circuit in North Carolina? That there are classes you can take to become a barbecue judge? That people build smoke rigs in the most fantastical shapes and sizes and travel around the country competing in different towns, spending oodles of money to do so, in an effort to win eternal glory and get local people to come around to believing in their kind of barbecue?
There is the Congregation of the Hickory Smoked Brisket.
The Church of the Slow Cooked Whole Hog.
The Pygmalion Chopped BBQ Gathering.
The Saints of the Sticky Sauced Ribs.
The list is endless. Each "pit master" will tell you that their particular barbecue is the best. They profess their barbecue is the only way for your taste buds and stomach to enter the pearly gates of gastrobliss. And they whole-heartedly believe every word they are preaching to you because they have sunk their heart, their soul and their tithes into these recipes and piggies. Faint of heart and weak of spirit need not attend any of these homecomings. Some "pit masters" will warmly acknowledge the doctrines of other competitors and show them respect while other "masters" cry fire and brimstone at the merest hint of the melding of methodologies for an equally great yet different approach to barbecue.
Despite their protest, however, they all share a common belief-one that shapes their days and their nights-a true respect for the animal from which they are receiving these gifts and a genuine joy in sharing these gifts.
What's that sound like to you-if not a religion?