Good barbecue is all about personal taste, as well as, tradition and style. That's why the term is usually preceded by a location or a name, or both. That's the tradition. Where it came from and who made it. And more often than not, personal preference is mostly about where you've been and how much barbecue you ate there. A particular kind of barbecue becomes a part of you over time, like an accent when you learn language. Talk about it or order barbecue and you reveal where and how you learned to speak barbecue. And you may not even be aware how much you love it, until you go somewhere else and eat the local version of barbecue. Sometimes it feels like you're not even talking the same language!
Now some people claim to love all barbecue and I guess there is some truth to it, but when pressed on the subject, it won't be long before their personal bias toward a particular tradition and style is obvious from the way they describe any other barbecue. There must be some measure of perfection before any other barbecue can be declared "too sweet" - "too dry" - "too smoky" - "too stringy" - "too chunky" - "too-too-too" fill in the blank.
When you speak barbecue, the nuances say it all -- the accent, if you will. Some of us will even go back to the process of making the barbecue to explain what we like and why. Like all the way back to the pig, and only the pig! -- whole pig, butts or shoulders. And the fuel for the fire -- wood, charcoal or gas. And the temperature and duration of cooking -- low and slow or ... well, however else you might think you can cook it. And the flavoring -- before, during and/or after cooking -- rub, sauce, mop and/or simply smoke. And the cut of the meat for sandwiches when it's done -- pulled, sliced, chunked or chopped. And the handle for the sandwich -- bread, bun or roll, regular loaf or Texas size, plain or buttered, raw or toasted. And the base of the sauce -- tomato, mustard, mayo or vinegar -- sweet, hot or mild. And served-sauced or sauce-your-own. And don't forget the condiments -- chow, mayo slaw, vinegar slaw or pickles.
See what I mean -- drawl, clipped, twang, nasal, broad, flat ...
My personal barbecue tradition is -- whole pig, cooked over wood charcoal, low and slow, just pig, just smoke, chopped, plain cheap grocery store white bun, and I like to add the vinegar and red pepper sauce myself, thank you very much. And one more thing -- I like slaw on top of the pork, but I go back and forth between mayo slaw or vinegar slaw.
Lately I've been liking this vinegar slaw a lot. It is perfect for barbecue -- any kind of barbecue -- on the sandwich or on the plate!
1 large bag coleslaw cabbage mix
1 cup red bell pepper, finely sliced, 1-inch long pieces
½ cup carrot, finely sliced, 1-inch long pieces
½ cup red/purple onion, finely sliced, 1-inch long pieces
½ cup sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup light olive oil
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
Mix dressing ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cabbage, red bell pepper, carrot and red/purple onion. Toss to coat. Place entire mixture in a plastic zip bag and refrigerate for several hours before serving. Turn bag several times to distribute dressing evenly.
Delicious served on or alongside pork barbecue sandwiches -- especially Eastern North Carolina Barbecue!