Monday, March 24, 2008


A sensitive subject is barbecue. There are so many different kinds, and many different people have many different ideas about just what makes good barbecue good.

Last Friday we went to a local barbecue joint: The Pig -N- Whistle, which has been serving ribs in Memphis since 1930. While Memphis barbecue is probably best known for Redezvous, Neely's and Corky's, there is a lot out there to choose from, and the more barbecue I have the more I realize that everyone likes their ribs just a little different.

My wife and I split a plate with a half-rack of ribs, some pulled pork and sliced, smoked kielbasa. It was, in my estimation, some of the best barbecue I've ever had. They offer their ribs in three styles: dry, just having a dry rub applied; wet, with barbecue sauce; or muddy, drenched in barbecue sauce and then topped with their dry rub. We had the muddy. I thought it was perfect. The ribs had a perfect texture, a little crust on the outside, falling apart tender on the inside. The sauce was great, sweet and tangy. And the rub was everything a dry rub should be, slightly salty and subtle.

However, my wife didn't like the muddy option. She thought the ribs were fantastic, but would have preferred the wet. My dad (my parents stayed with us a few days last week) would have preferred the dry. My mom thought the outside crust was too tough and would have like some ribs that were entirely "melt in your mouth" like Chili's or Applebee’s. I have friends who would have like a vinegar-based sauce and wouldn't have like the barbecue sauce at all.

So, food, like life, is about variety. I can swear up and down that the Pig -N- Whistle has the best barbecue, and my neighbor will swear up and down that Jim Neely's Interstate BBQ is the best. And, until I've tried everyone in town, I won't disagree. Even though I know that my taste and his are very likely to be quite different, I'm also quite willing to experiment. It is barbecue, after all.

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