Called to duty in a land of endless porcine possibilities
With the announcement this week of Dead End BBQ coming to Maryville, I believe it’s time for local leaders to take serious action regarding the proliferation of pork in our fair community.
There is, to put it mildly, a cornucopia of dining establishments dedicated to the production and consumption of swine that is smoked and served with a variety of sauces. Barbecue, as it is commonly known, is a staple of Southern cuisine, but the coming of Dead End means that here in Blount County, we have almost as many barbecue restaurants as we do fast food joints.
This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, not by any means. The problem, I’m afraid, is the overwhelming variety. The average consumer, I fear, will consider the bevy of baconous (yes, I just used bacon to make up my own adjective) bounty, and their brains will short-circuit. Which restaurant should they try? To which grill master should they throw their loyalties?
To prevent such problems, I hereby propose that one or all of our local government bodies create an unofficial position for the good of our entire county. Barbecue Ambassador.
I’m serious. With the increasing number that swine connoisseurs have locally, someone needs to step in so that order is established and calm prevails. We must not, we cannot let our fear of too much barbecue prevent us from enjoying any at all.
In so doing, I would like to nominate myself for such a position. I do so reluctantly, knowing that it is a public service such an individual would provide. Yet I will do it for you, my friends.
You might be asking yourselves, “What does that skinny dude know about eating barbecue?” A fair enough question, to be sure. Allow me to present my credentials.
My father is from Memphis, the epicenter of the “West Tennessee” style of barbecue. I lived for several years in South Carolina, which favors the Carolina style of sauce and preparation. And I love to eat it.
Rest assured, I have a distinguished and discriminating palate when it comes to barbecue. It matters not the meat used, because I will happily consume chicken, pork and beef, as well as avail myself to try all manner of non-traditional meats, up to and including goat, rabbit, squirrel, mutton, deer and bear. I will try all of your sauces with a knack for moderation, from your tomato-and-molasses richness to your lighter, vinegar-based solutions to the tangy delight of your mustard-based sauces.
In other words, I will eat it all. Dry-rubbed or wet, dripping with sauce or perfectly carved for dipping, it matters not. I will do all of this, and I will do it for you.
I will also be fair and judicious in the application of my duties, careful not to neglect a single establishment in our fair county that serves barbecue. (McDonald’s and it’s faux-meat McRib being the exception, of course.) If barbecue is on your menu, especially if it is part of the name of your business, I will make it my mission to visit regularly and sample everything you have to offer. In fact, I would suggest that you reserve a table for that purpose, so that your beloved Barbecue Ambassador always has a place to sit and enjoy a meal at your lovely eatery.
From the mouth-watering, peppery wings at Whitt’s to the moist mountains of chopped pork at Bread of Heaven, I will be there. From the sandwiches the size of my fist at Stinker’s to the racks of ribs the size of a small child at Full Service BBQ, I will eat there. From the scrumptious shoats on the smoker at Melrose Place to the finger-licking swine at Smokin’ Joe’s, I will gorge myself. I will travel from one end of the county to the other to seek out those smoked delicacies all Blount County barbecue lovers crave, and when I find a Shangri-La on the fringe, such as Sweet P’s just across the county line down Old Knoxville Highway, I will work tirelessly to have it annexed as one of our own.
Because, my friends, we can never have too much barbecue. There is room for Dead End, just as there is for all of the other aforementioned restaurants, because we love to eat it. And as Blount County’s Barbecue Ambassador, I will make sure you know where to get what you love.
I do this, of course, without the need for monetary compensation. I see it as my civic duty, and I will gladly step up and give back to this community that I love so much. It will not be an easy task, and there may be times when my stomach fills up and my will falters, but I will remember the faces of all of you, smeared with sauce and grease and chunks of meat, and I will carry on.
I believe with all of my heart that such a position is needed, and I have confidence that our government officials and our local restaurateurs can come together to accommodate it. I hope they will address the matter post-haste, as Dead End is set to open in the spring.
In the meantime, I will await word of my appointment and, while doing so, give a few such local establishments a “test run.” I don’t think they’ll mind serving me a full plate of free barbecue, since I am, after all, practicing the future fulfillment of my office.
Please keep me in your thoughts, and if you see me coming, grab me a bottle of sauce and tell me which sides go best with your preferred plate of steaming meat. After all, it’s a rough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.