Opinion: Daily Journal

N.C. Senate leader serves up delicious distraction

Creative Commons photo
Creative Commons photo

Props to N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger for guiding the conversation in our state back toward things that matter. Things about which we can happily disagree.

Courts, pipelines, solar farms, elections? Nah.

Let’s talk barbecue, he says. Better yet, let’s talk barbecue while eating it, plates piled high. Tomato sauce on the western half, vinegar-based to the east. Coleslaw, hand-cut fries, mac and cheese, and hushpuppies in between, a virtual Maginot line securing a comfortable separation of regional styles. Fresh-baked rolls slathered in honey butter.

Let’s prepare it whole hog. Smoked overnight over wood and hickory. Pulled or chopped — you choose. Perfectly succulent, the fat expertly rendered, permeating the meat and dribbling past your lips.

Hmm. Let’s enjoy our sumptuous spread at a college basketball game. At center court. You pick the team — I choose Wake Forest, regardless of its record. At halftime let’s hear some bluegrass and Americana. Mandolin Orange or Chatham County Line, maybe. A tribute to Doc Watson, perhaps. Raw and rustic, yet soulful, sweet.

Let’s wash it all down with a fine beer crafted in North Carolina — again, you choose. Or a glass of wine from the Yadkin Valley, or, hey, a jar of — legal— ’shine from Wilkes County. Or, of course, a bottle of Cheerwine or a glass of sweet tea, nestled alongside a bowl of banana pudding, the sweet, tantalizing whipped cream slowly falling to one side.

Fellowship, fun, and a shared vision of our great state, things we love — some more than others — and on which we can all mostly agree.

Berger got this started with a tweet calling out a writer for Munchies, a Vice Media website.

Others joined in, including U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who tweeted: 

It’s much ado about nothing, really. Brooklyn barbecue is definitely not taking over the world, as anyone with a smidgen of common sense can tell you. Heck, it probably will never make much of an impression in Queens, even. And, as the News & Observer points out, the story to which Berger refers is from 2014.

But it’s a worthy debate, nonetheless. As much as I enjoy Eastern North Carolina barbecue, I will always savor a slab of Memphis or Kansas City ribs, or moist Texas brisket, or creamy Alabama white sauce.

In the muddled scheme of things, none of this matters, except that it really does. Barbecue — aside from the regional squabbles over who’s better than whom — transcends race and gender, ethnicity, class, and demographics. It goes beyond polarization and ideology.

It’s a much-needed distraction, a return to normality, if you will. It’s something on which we can always rely, a source of contentment amid the noise and contention.

As chef and author Anthony Bourdain once said, “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”

Thanks, Senator Berger. We needed the reminder.