Regional Cuisine: the Delights of Southern BBQ

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Have you ever experienced the quintessentially American gastronomy known as “Barbecue”? Unique to the southern states – in particular the Carolinas, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas – this usually pork-based dish is decidedly non-vegetarian fare.

The Spanish introduced pigs as a source of sustenance to the colonies and the American Indians in the 16th century. The Indians subsequently introduced the Spanish to their particular method of slow cooking with smoke – and so American BBQ was born.

In the south, barbecue is more than just a style of cooking, and more than just a meal. It’s become a subculture with wide variations in flavour between regions, and fierce rivalry for titles at barbecue competitions.

What any Southerner will tell you is that it’s all about the sauce. Each region has its own distinct BBQ sauce preparation that sets its BBQ apart from the rest. For instance, Eastern North Carolina likes a vinegar-based sauce, but the center of the state enjoys a combination of ketchup and vinegar. Memphis BBQ is heavily tomato-based, while Alabama has its own mayonnaise and vinegar-based sauce. South Carolina prides itself on specializing in four distinct styles: mustard-based, vinegar and pepper, and light and heavy tomato-based.

I’m freshly returned from a trip to Columbia, South Carolina, which serves up barbecue that involves a mustard-based sauce characteristic of Carolina lowland cooking. Getting to experience this regional cuisine as part of a feast with friends and family was the highlight of my trip. I loved getting to try a type of cuisine that is second nature to the folks who live there, but brand new to me. Along with the pork, there was: succotash, buttermilk coleslaw, vinegary potato salad, mac and cheese, baked beans, hash, and – of course – a delectable key lime pie (I need another article to devote to this heavenly dessert!)

I wish I’d taken a photo of my plate! Heaped high with BBQ and all its fixings, it was a sight to see. The feast was prepared by Bone-In Artisan Barbecue, an award-winning local BBQ catering truck.

If you’re headed to any of the Southern States, eating at least one barbecue meal should be high on your “must do” list. ToursByLocals guides in Atlanta, Nashville, Kansas City, Raleigh, and Charleston will all be able to guide you to their favourite BBQ places as part of your private tour, so you too can get a real taste of the South on your travels.
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