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Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey

Barbecue Crossroads:Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey
by Robb Walsh and O. Rufus Lovett
University of Texas Press (2013)
Paperback, $25

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Click here to view a gallery of photos from the making of the book!

In stories, recipes, and photographs, James Beard Award–winning writer Robb Walsh and acclaimed documentary photographer O. Rufus Lovett take us on a barbecue odyssey from East Texas to the Carolinas and back. In Barbecue Crossroads, we meet the pitmasters who still use old-fashioned wood-fired pits, and we sample some of their succulent pork shoulders, whole hogs, savory beef, sausage, mutton, and even some barbecued baloney. Recipes for these and the side dishes, sauces, and desserts that come with them are painstakingly recorded and tested.

But Barbecue Crossroads is more than a cookbook; it is a trip back to the roots of our oldest artisan food tradition and a look at how Southern culture is changing. Walsh and Lovett trace the lineage of Southern barbecue backward through time as they travel across a part of the country where slow-cooked meat has long been part of everyday life. What they find is not one story, but many. They visit legendary joints that don’t live up to their reputations—and discover unknown places that deserve more attention. They tell us why the corporatizing of agriculture is making it difficult for pitmasters to afford hickory wood or find whole hogs that fit on a pit.

Walsh and Lovett also remind us of myriad ways that race weaves in and out of the barbecue story, from African American cooking techniques and recipes to the tastes of migrant farmworkers who ate their barbecue in meat markets, gas stations, and convenience stores because they weren’t welcome in restaurants. The authors also expose the ways that barbecue competitions and TV shows are undermining traditional barbecue culture. And they predict that the revival of the community barbecue tradition may well be its salvation.

 

This is an homage to a way of life that, unless tended to, may very well pass away in the next decade or two…The color photographs alone demand the book’s size, as do the more than 80 recipes, some of which can be duplicated by home chefs, such as parched peanuts made using a microwave and plain paper bag and melt-in-your-eyes fried pies (never mind what the sugar and cholesterol counts are). Walsh explores the relationship between pits and pulpits, wanders to Memphis (spiritual home of this kind of cookery), focuses on the charms of beer and community feasts, and more with charm, ease, and a methodical pace, reminding us how life and barbecue need to be savored.
-Barbara Jacobs, Booklist
Lovett’s photography shows beautifully decaying signs, weathered hands stoking fires, embers glowing “deep in dark metal caverns, and barbecue platters of all varieties. It’s the story of an American tradition that’s endangered, for all that it’s in vogue. One gets a sense of urgency from Barbecue Crossroads: preserve these traditions before it’s too late.
-Paula Forbes, Eater.com
Award-winning writer Robb Walsh captures life and culture like a Steinbeck of the South. The story of barbecue is layered and intimate…There are visceral pleasures: the freshly chopped pork sandwich eaten at a Formica counter, coconut pie eaten over the car hood. But Walsh, who has written extensively about the history of Texas food, always gives you something deeper to chew on…A masterful piece of documentation, the book is a labor of love and time — like barbecue itself.
-Eve Hill-Angus, Dallas Morning News
In the end, you feel privileged to have been invited along and a whole lot smarter about not only smoked meat in all of its many guises, but this lovely and confounding part of the country.
– Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times