Published on: November 2, 2015by Kevin Coupe
One of the founding tenets here at MNB has been that many in the food industry don't think enough about food - they are in the efficiency and logistics business, but aren't as focused as they should be on how food tastes and smells and connects to people's lives in fundamental ways. (This is an easy test. Walk into a supermarket. Any supermarket. Sniff. If you can't smell food, if you don't get hungry, then they're not paying close enough attention.)
And so this morning I want to suggest that it is time, in the interest of appropriate salivation, that it is time to read a little Calvin Trillin.
The current issue of The New Yorker has a new bit of classic Trillin - writing about North Carolina barbecue.
"For some years, I’m now prepared to admit, I somehow labored under the impression that Rocky Mount is the line of demarcation that separates the two principal schools of North Carolina barbecue. Wrong. The line of demarcation is, roughly, Raleigh, sixty miles west. The Research Triangle—the area encompassing Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—is a sort of demilitarized zone, where someone who’s been concentrating on the barbecue scene, as I was on my most recent visit, half expects to see the distinctive blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers. Rocky Mount is within the eastern North Carolina sphere of influence, where barbecue means the whole hog, chopped, with a vinegar-based sauce that is flavored with pepper. To the west of the DMZ lies territory controlled by the forces of what is variously called Piedmont- or Western- or Lexington-style barbecue—a version that uses only pork shoulders, chopped (or, sometimes, sliced), with a sauce that is also vinegar-based but has been turned pinkish by the addition of ketchup or tomato sauce. All of that should have been obvious even to somebody who, being from Kansas City, was brought up to assume that barbecue meant ribs or beef brisket, with a thick, tomato-based sauce, and that the presence of chopped-up meat at a barbecue joint would be an indication that a customer of long standing had absent-mindedly shown up without his teeth."
Trillin's prose has plenty of teeth. He's been writing about a wide range of subjects for The New Yorker since 1963, covering crime, racial integration, and even contributing poetry from time to time. But food always has been a specialty for Trillin; he was passionate about local specialties long before it was trendy, arguing, for example, that Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City is quite possibly the best restaurant in the world.
I'd heartily recommend to you that you check out Trillin's new piece, which you can see here.
And you also should check out a collection of his food-related stories, which you can get from Amazon.
Trillin's work always has been an Eye-Opener. Enjoy.
- KC's View: