I was reading a book by food historian Bob Garner about North Carolina barbecue recently and was surprised? ... shocked? ... dumbfounded? ... to learn that what is known far and wide as North Carolina barbecue likely originated in southeastern Virginia.
Doesn’t that just beg to be a tricky trivia question?
Just imagine: The food commonly referred to as North Carolina barbecue was first prepared during the Colonial period in an area that is now part of what U.S. state?
The answer comes quickly: Duh, North Carolina.
But then the questioner replies with a “gotcha,” informing the confident contestant that the correct answer, in fact, is Virginia.
Of course, the subsequent history is that the food quickly migrated into northeastern North Carolina with settlers who migrated here.
And it was here in North Carolina that barbecue became a part of the culture. The recipe was refined, indeed perfected, and barbecue became almost synonymous with social gatherings in the Old North State.
Barbecue became a big part of the way of life in eastern North Carolina, and later, with a few slight changes to the recipe, it became a big part of life in the Piedmont area of the state.
As much as East and West like to claim barbecue superiority in North Carolina, most North Carolinians know (whether they admit it or not) that both styles are delicious and that they really aren’t that different.
In fact, in places like Roxboro, Henderson and Asheboro you might even run into folks who make barbecue that sort of splits the difference between the two styles.
And as much as Texas (or Kansas or wherever) likes to talk about how much better their barbecue is, we know how good ours is and aren’t inclined to have anyone convince us otherwise.
Speaking of Texas, the world-famous Texas Pete hot sauce is made by a company out of Winston-Salem.
That’s right, North Carolina barbecue likely got its start in Virginia and Texas Pete is made in North Carolina.
You mighty also be confused (I know I was) to learn that the vast majority of Virginia peanuts are grown in North Carolina.
Can’t you imagine our trivia show host again? The question: Virginia peanuts are grown mainly in what U.S. State?
And just think of the exasperated contestant answering: Why Virginia, of course.
Except the answer is North Carolina.
It turns out the more you know the less sense any of it makes.
But North Carolina barbecue is going to be good no matter what you call it.