I was at work counting down the minutes until I left for the Bahamas, when I flipped open a local newspaper. I was absentmindedly skimming the headlines when I turned to the Travel section. Suddenly my wandering eyes stopped…an article about road trips. Should be interesting. I opened the paper and felt my jaw drop as my eyes nearly popped out of my head. My co-workers noticed my expression and frozen posture, worriedly asking what was wrong. I turned to them and with shaking hands held the paper out to them. It wasn’t what was wrong; it was what was right.
The road trip article was about the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail. A series of 23 old-style barbecue pits over 500 miles. I like road trips. I like barbecue. It was fate.
Some quick research on the The North Carolina Barbecue Society website explained the criteria to be included on the trail: they had to cook their products on wood or charcoal, make their own sauce, and have been in continuous operation for at least 15 years, were considered a good offering of North Carolina barbecue, and enjoyed the high esteem of the community and barbecue aficionados. Only places that offered a sit-down dining experience were included and there was a limit of two pits per city or town. Who knew there was so much to consider with barbecue?
The trail was designed to be followed from Ayden in the east to Murphy which is almost on the Tennessee border. I did the math in my head: 23 pits in less than a week once you factor in the time to and from North Carolina. That was a lot of Q. I was willing to put my body on the line; in the interest of helping others of course.
Now a few quick points to help with the barbecue journey:
In North Carolina, barbecue means pork; specifically the pork shoulder or “butt”. Some places will serve barbecue chicken or turkey but don’t go looking for a rack of ribs or brisket.
North Carolina barbecue uses vinegar-based sauces as opposed to Kansas-style which is sweeter and uses more tomatoes.
Hushpuppies are available all the time. These are bits of deep-fried cornmeal deliciousness which are usually found in oblong or ball shapes however there are some that are in sticks. There was a trend with the flavour that I will expand later on.
I heard reference to Piedmont a lot which, according to the all-knowing Google, is a plateau region bounded by the Atlantic Coastal Plain and main Appalachian Mountains that is characterized by low, rolling hills. Most of the trail is found in the this region. Some people will refer to the barbecue as “Piedmont style”.
So loosen your belts, get comfortable, and hold onto your hats my friends. The Adventure Dawgs are hitting the road. Because let’s face it: where’s there’s smoke there’s great food. And where there’s great food, there’s us.