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Barbecue-A 'Must' For Any Southern Vacation!

Barbecued short ribs with sauce

Memphis. Smithfield. Kansas City.
No vacation to the South is complete without barbecue. Just like the accent, each Southern state has its own version, with various 'subsets' in between. While there's really no substitute for a good barbecue sandwich, this tasty treat has a wide range of uses to fit pretty much anyone's tastes.
Most of the variations of barbecue (also referred to as BBQ or Bar-B-Que) are based on the sauce, but sometimes there's a difference in the way it is cooked. For instance, 'pit barbecue' is just that-the meat (mostly pork) is speared by a stick and placed on a rack called a 'spit' over a fire that is built in a small pit. The source of the fire plays a big part in the flavor-meat cooked over mesquite has a different 'smoky' flavor than meat cooked over hardwood, etc. The meat is then 'pulled' (shredded) and served with or without sauce.
There's also 'grilled barbecue' where the meat (and sometimes, the entire hog) is placed on a grill. If you ever visit North Carolina and are invited to a 'pig pickin', that's what you can expect to see-the whole hog placed on the grill with the shredded or chopped meat put in a shallow dish and placed in the (sanitized!) hole in the side of the pig. It's kind of creepy-looking at first, but the meat is really good! You can also get beef barbecue or pork made from the 'shoulder' region of the hog, which are also good. Ribs are usually grilled too, although it is possible to cook them in a slow cooker. Ribs can be cooked with sauce, although places such as Memphis use a 'dry rub' mix of spices and serve the sauce on the side.
Like I said before, the sauce plays a big role in the overall taste. The sauce used in my native North Carolina-where the 'Smithfield' I mention is located-is kind of 'vinegar-y', but some places use honey, molasses, tomato paste or mustard as the 'base'. Many sauces-such as the one I mention above-have multiple 'bases', which can vary by region. At least, that's what I've had; others may differ.
If you don't care for either pork or beef, you can usually find barbecued chicken. I make it using chicken breasts covered in a smoky-flavored tomato- and molasses-based sauce brushed over chicken and baked, but I've had it grilled and shredded. I've seen shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops speared, grilled and covered in sauce, but I'm not sure if other types of seafood are used. You can always experiment and get back to us!
If you'd like to get an idea of which barbecue restaurants to visit this summer, check out Travel and Leisure's and the Huffington Post's suggestions.  They're not all in the South, but you know what they say-imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. :)

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