Southern Muses has returned from a sabbatical during which we wrote a book or something and we’ve spent most of our time since mid-January recovering from the experience. And then this happened.
Which by the way –I think this is great stuff for Charlotte–personally I’m tickled pink.
Then this happened and now I feel I must peel myself from the sofa and wade through the sea of Krispy Kreme boxes to weigh in on a subject that has already received far too much attention.
The First Lady–trying to be nice, mind you- said something like, “The Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course great barbecue.”
And with that, as you may know, the game is on. Seriously on. Because she associated Charlotte with barbecue. Oh Jezus Gawd yes she did.
And many people just like to died–even non-southerners who don’t even know what that expression means.
Forget that she said something nice about Charlotte, like it is “vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity.” No, never mind all that. She still said it is home to great barbecue and somehow or other that is now ranked as one of the cardinal sins, because no one has ever before dared to imply there is a barbecue scene in Charlotte…or have they?
Who knew Charlotte–which is known for nothing special in the culinary department–would find itself embroiled in the middle of the barbecue wars. And the sad thing is the conversation over the First Lady’s remark about barbecue is still getting press. You’d think people in Charlotte and environs had nothing else to worry about. The public school system is imploding, but that discussion can just wait until we’ve sorted out this barbecue fiasco.
Barbecue aficionados near and far have had their say on the matter. It’s an odd situation of the locals turning on themselves. Prior to this, the raging food fights centered on such vital issues as how you can’t find a good bagel in Charlotte or there is no good pizza in Charlotte–both slurs from homesick persons transplanted from that place we natives call Up North. The rest of us have spent the past twenty years or so bracing ourselves against the withering criticism directed at what passed as acceptable food until we were shown what goobers we really are for not knowing the difference between A Really Good Pizza and a pizza from Charlotte.
But now it’s a battle royal between all the regional barbecue joints who believe they have a pig in this fight. Opinions from Up North don’t count in this instance since they don’t have anything remotely resembling Really Good Barbecue up there and they therefore have nothing to contribute. The barbecue debacle already has the promise to become a brutal internecine fight for fame as to where the great barbecue in these parts is really found. Why, we hear the purveyors of roasted pig flesh wail, didn’t she know the Really Good Barbecue is in Lexington/Gastonia/Shelby/Kingston/and/or all the other places that believe they can rightfully claim the title of the Paris of Barbecue. The Obamas will doubtless be inundated with invitations to travel far afield of Charlotte where they can sink their teeth into the real thing, but you know, nobody has that much time on their hands these days.
All the fuss is about the First Lady trying to be nice and making a small misstep that has created a firestorm of response out of proportion to the comment. Charlotte is not known for its barbecue, it’s true. But Charlotte isn’t known for much of anything. She could have been more brutally honest and correct and gotten herself in just as much trouble. She could have said something like:
- Charlotte, the new south city that has experienced explosive growth in the past decade and is now the land of endless and poorly planned suburban and exurban communities full of cookie-cutter neighborhoods, chain restaurants, some big-city style traffic let me tell you!
- Charlotte, the new south city that has razed nearly every vestige of historic architecture and communities, especially those formerly the enclaves of the African-American population.
- The Queen City, it has one light rail line and a bus system.
- The Queen City, home to hardworking folks, except the ones who used to be teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and lots of former Wachovia and Bank of America employees–most of them are out of a job we hear.
- Charlotte, home to great basketball –the Charlotte Bobcats, and great football–those Panthers and their fickle fans!!!
I could go on but you get my drift. All of the above statements are unflattering, but they’re true. Michelle Obama is a lady; she tried to say something nice, and this is the thanks she gets. I’m sure she’s moved on though and so should everyone else.
Maybe you can find great barbecue in Charlotte-who can say. By the time of the convention there will certainly be a barbecue tour of the town organized by some well-meaning local boosters and folks can sort out the great barbecue question to suit themselves. I can however, tell you this, if you’re visiting and decide to investigate the mysteries of North Carolina barbecue, here’s the code: if it’s got red sauce and tomatoes and vinegar in the slaw(“red slaw”), it’s western NC barbecue; if the sauce is vinegary and peppery and has mayo in the slaw(“white slaw”), it’s eastern NC barbecue. If it’s a mustard based sauce, you’re in South Carolina.