Sunday, January 8, 2012

Grammar School

Toe-may-tow, toe-mah-tow, poe-tay-tow, poe-tah-tow.  Same thing, right?  Sure.

How about Appalachian?  I can spell it, but don't ask me to pronounce it.  If it's a Trail, it's "The AT."  If it's a University, it's "Appy State."  If I make the mistake of saying this proper noun aloud, in its entirety, a chorus of "you're not from around here, are you?" questions, smirks, or other peculiar noises result.  Ayuh, I'm not from around hey-ah.

I received quite an education in mid-Atlantic colloquialisms my first year or two in Virginia.  I recall writing a top-ten-type translation dictionary for my Northern family one holiday season.  One of the finer points was that here in Virginia you carry your friend to the grocery, where they pack your goods in a sack after you tote them around the store in a buggy.  In Maine, buggy (as in, "a little bit buggy") refers either to the density of the black flies in the neighborhood or someone who's a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

My favorite, though, BY FAR (eclipsing even "over yonder", which is away to the left or to the right or even both at the same time), is "barbecue".

I came to Virginia in the mid 1990s, a month short of my daughter's first birthday, just in time for the winter holidays.  One of my inaugural activities was the rather large Engineering Department's Christmas feast, a "covered dish" (translation: pot luck) mid-day meal held at the office.  This is not to be confused with the department Christmas Party to which spouses were invited, ties and fancy shoes were worn, and "set-ups" provided (translation: drink mixers).  Navigating the first two MONTHS was an education in learning a new language by "full immersion."

I remember bringing the very large, extremely delicious fruit cake (I am NOT kidding about the fruitcake) which my mom sent from Maine that year.  Snicker all you like, but this was a super-delicious fruit cake.  A Jimmy Howard fruitcake.  More cake than fruit.  Shaped like the State of Maine.  Or, as one engineer noted, North Carolina (the border of which was just a few miles away).  Who knew?  Turn Maine sideways and it looks like North Carolina.  At least to an engineer.  Fit right in, yes I did.

Until they uncovered the chafing dishes and presented "Barbecue."  What?

The same geographically-gifted engineer translated:  I'm from The North.  Where barbecue is a verb, meaning "to cook outside."  I now live in The South.  Where Barbecue is a noun.  A slow-cooked pork product.  Oh, by the way, there's Virginia Barbecue and North Carolina Barbecue and all kinds of other pretend-Barbecues.  Or BBQ, as I've seen it lately.  Maybe the abbreviation distinguishes it from the verb; it certainly fits on a roadside stand more efficiently.

Celebrity chefs and food critics share a passion for barbecue - either as a verb or a noun - and embrace their own version as they would a signature.  Bobby Flay's barbecue involves cilantro and southwestern spices which make me think of black beans and corn rather than slow-cooked pork.  Steve Raichlin, with whom I've worked (once, anyway) and associate more with rich Alsace-Lorraine foods than with cooking outside, has made his fame and fortune grilling anything and everything.  He's written several BBQ Bibles, even.  He is a verb-barbecue King.  He has a FABULOUS recipe for root beer barbecue sauce.  Somewhere.

Jane and Michael Stern, of and regular guests on The Splendid Table, discuss barbecue and its regional flavors often.  The noun barbecue.  Some have more vinegar taste, some are sweeter.  Some are made with barbecue sauce (think sweet and bottled), some are not.  If I spent as much time on the road as they do, I'd probably see the patterns and understand which ingredients indicate which region of origin.  I don't, though, and so I focus on what I think tastes great.

I'm not exactly sure why Z, a Pennsylvania boy by birth, is my King of Barbecue, but he is.  Z and Mrs. Z enjoy what I lovingly refer to as a "mixed marriage."  He is a Virginia Tech grad.  She is an alum of the University of Virginia.  For many, this is a rivalry which challenges Alabama/Auburn or Ohio State/Michigan in ferocity.  They are the most fun, most generous, most caring people I know.  Period.

When DH and I announced our intention to wed and relocate, the House of Z geared up for a party in our honor.  House of Z parties are, simply, phenomenal.  Great guests, abundant food and delicious drink, all set on beautiful grounds.  These folks throw a fabulous party.  All this after being up the entire night babysitting the barbecue - in both the noun and the verb forms.

Z made what seemed like TONS of his famous slow-cooked pork delicacy.  His process involves soaking Boston Butt in a delightful concoction, then slow-cooking on the grill.  All night.  There is typically a generous amount of beer involved, too, although the recipe he provided indicates that the beer is for the chef, not the pork.  When it's ready, Z slices this delicious dish and piles it high on the table for all to admire.  Moaning is appropriate.

Not sharing this same penchant for overnight slow-roasting on the grill, I've adapted Z's recipe for the crockpot.  Rather than slicing the finished product, I find it's perfect for "pulling", or shredding.  I finally understand where the term "pulled pork" comes from.  Add a little of the cooking liquid back in and it's EXACTLY the noun I enjoy on a bun with coleslaw on the side.

Z's Boston Butt (or, Chateau Jeaux-Naus Pulled Pork)

Boston Butt (about 5#), rinsed and patted dry.  Place in slow cooker.

Combine in this proportion:
1T each garlic (raw, pressed), olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and Essence
Add two times as much Coke as vinegar to cover pork in slow cooker.

Cook on LOW for 8-12 hours.

When done, remove pork to a clean pan.  Shred (I use two forks and pull the pork apart).  Add enough cooking liquid to bring to desired consistency.  Discard the remaining liquid and rinse slow cooker.  Return pulled pork to slow cooker to keep warm until serving.  Serve on hamburger buns with hot sauce.

Chateau Jeaux-Naus Cole Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded

1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. horseradish
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 pkt. sweetener
1/2 tsp. celery seed
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine dressing ingredients and mix well.  Add to cabbage and carrots and mix well.  Serve with additional mayonnaise, if desired.

My kids like this dish because it's the only time I'll spring for a big pack of soda and leave it mostly unattended for them to pilfer at will.  I know there's a whole Coke-vs.-Pepsi cola war out there and one's preference indicates their region of origin.  I've been known to use Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and even root beer (a nod to BBQ King Raichlin).  Oh well.


Jennifer S said...

What's Essence for your northern sister????

Accidental Artisan said...

Spice concoction developed and marketed by a certain celebrity chef from New Orleans whose chef's whites bear a script initial similar to our mother's.

You can buy it amongst the other prepared rubs and seasoning mixes in the grocery. Thankfully, this one doesn't list anything scary-sounding in its ingredients list.

Or you can go here and make your own, like I do, because you already have all of the ingredients in your pantry:

Paprika, garlic and onion powders, salt, black and cayenne peppers, oregano and thyme.

Add a bunch of chili powder and you have the version of Dave's Rub we use on the Date Night flank steak.