Michelle Obama: “Great Barbecue” is a Relative Term

Michelle Obama is catching heat for referring to Charlotte, NC’s, great barbecue:

In listing Charlotte’s many virtues, Obama named southern charm, hospitality, diversity — “And of course, great barbecue.”

That was news to residents, who know that North Carolina’s best barbecue lies farther afield. “We appreciate the compliments, and they’re all spot-on until that last one,” the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer newspaper wrote in a blog post titled, “Charlotte = great barbecue? Who knew?

I’m not a fan of either Obama, but we should cut her some slack here.

Barbecue is this country’s gourmet cuisine in many ways and, like many gourmet cuisines, it varies from place to place, both in the way it’s prepared and its quality.  For example, here in Tennessee Memphis style barbecue is predominant, but in the Carolinas it’s entirely different (as I found out the first time visiting my wife’s relatives in Union, SC.)  Even the meat is different: both Memphis and Carolina barbecues tend to be pork, but the Texans pretty much stick with beef (which they learned to barbecue in the days when beef was range fed, range run and otherwise tougher than old boot.)

But let’s face it: for someone who grew up in a region whose cuisine’s blandness is legendary and where “barbecue” is anything thrown on a grill, Charlotte (or any other city in the Old Confederacy) has great barbecue.  (Now that she lives in the town which combines Northern charm with Southern efficiency, that’s even more the case.)  Residents of the Queen City may think that they have to drive to Lexington to hit the spot with barbecue, but those who have in the past lived a few hundred kilometres north won’t complain about what they get in Charlotte.

Eat up, Michelle.  It’s good for you.

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