The other day one of my dear friends, a native of Mooresville NC, and I decided to take time out from our crazy schedules and have lunch together. We hadn’t planned on where to go until I met her at which point she asked if I liked barbecue. It turned out the Coddle Creek ARP Church on Coddle Creek Rd. was having their annual barbecue. Boy, was I in for a treat! It was some of the best barbeque, coleslaw and homemade cakes (I had a red velvet cake) I have ever had!. There was quite a line when we arrived but we were able to find two empty seats at one of the large round tables. It wasn’t even quite noon and the place was packed. We chatted with everyone as if we had known them forever while savoring every bite of the deeply smoked and chopped pork, spicy coleslaw, sweet pickles, bread and myriad fresh baked cakes of every kind. I felt like I had lived here my whole life. This was truly the essence of life in a small southern town…worlds away from the estate-studded Lake Norman yet just 10 or so miles away.
I admit it, when we moved to Lake Norman I didn’t know very much about life in North Carolina, we just knew we loved it here. The first time we ordered barbecue we were a bit confused by the large serving of finely chopped pork, coleslaw made with spicy vinegar (no mayonaise) and hush puppies. Where were the bones, the ribs, the chicken breasts and the thick red sauce? Well, clearly we had not done our homework!
According to The North Carolina Barbecue Society, “North Carolina is the Cradle of the Cue”. But, in North Carolina, unlike other states, barbecue is all about roasted pork, often the entire pig. It is not about a red sauce. Here, barbecue is about the process of cooking the meat as much as about the ingredients. While some debate whether it should be cooked in a pit vs. over gas, normally it is a slow-roasting process which lasts most of the day. The barbecue I had last week had the best, smokey flavor I have had so I am guessing it was roasted in a pit.
North Carolina Barbecue has quite a history, dating back to the 1500’s according to Terry Mancour’s “North Carolina Barbecue: A Primer” . “The hog roast, or “pig pickin” is perhaps the heart of North Carolina culinary culture…The pig pickin’ has been used by hundreds of churches as a fund-raising technique” going back as far as 1757, Around Lake Norman, it is not uncommon to see home made signs at major intersections announcing an upcoming barbecue by not just churches but fire stations, community organizations and schools.
Every year, the town of Lexington which is about an hour from Mooresville/Lake Norman, holds their Lexington Barbecue Festival. My husband and I went our first year here. Not only was there great barbecue but the streets were full of entertainment, arts and crafts, pigs made out of sand, wood, clay and just about anything you can think of!
If you check out the links above you will find wonderful lists of restaurants, recipes, and an extensive history about our great North Carolina barbecue. Enjoy!
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