Monday, July 25, 2011

EAT: On A Pulled Pork Mission

I'm southern. There's not much else I need to say to justify this post. 

When you're from Mississippi, just south of bar-b-que capital Memphis, TN, you have the sauce running in your veins. Your family reunions are bigger than a Skynyrd concert and may involve your Uncle Hambone cooking something on the engine of a beefed up pickup truck piled high on cinder blocks. You get lost in a sea of your cousins, know how to properly tip a cow and can smell kudzu in your sleep. You're southern. 

When I moved to California almost 11 years ago, I had no idea how much I would miss those parts of being from the south that were once second skin. Of all the sensory experiences that linger the most, southern food is the one I find myself trying to recreate often, albeit with a California touch.

Be not afraid - I have seen the light of California food. One of the first things that amazed me was seeing lemons, limes and avocados growing on trees. In people's backyards! Food growing on trees! Heading south along route 1, you're destined to find farmer's stands with heaps of brussel sprouts, greens, corn, tomatoes and strawberries stretching for miles along the fresh ocean breeze.

Southern food, which in my mind has always been based on what you grew in your garden or raised in the pastures, has seen a sad amount of fast food-washing over the years. My once small town two-lane road is now a six-lane congested McDonalds-BurgerKing-Applebees-SteakInShake thoroughfare, paving over what used to be green space, grass fields and my old trailer park. 

My Granny, Verneal Timmons

The southern food I miss is my Granny Timmons' homemade cinnamon buns, buckets of boiled peanuts, homemade breads, roasted chickens from the coup and good bbq. The fresh foods from her gardens and canned veggies from last season were torturous as a picky kid eater, but times are always achangin'. I find myself cooking more and more like my granny, and a good pulled pork sammich is definitely in order.

My fellow southern transplant friend Damion makes a capital M, Mean pulled pork, but he's holding on dearly to his recipe. I've asked him for it multiple times, and he just starts rattling off various ingredients with this charming, secretive smirk, saying, "Oh, honey! It's so simple. You just. . . brown sugar blah blah. . . pork butt blah blah. . . marinade. . . blah blah," until I've either lost interest or simply can't keep up. He never writes it down.

Luckily there's an awesome place up in Guerneville, CA by the Russian River that my friends have turned me on to. Stumptown Brewery has a yum-o-licious pulled pork sandwich, not to mention that good ole southern biker bar feel and fresh tap micro-brews for days. Sit out on the patio and watch the game or sprawl out on blankets in the large grassy area overlooking the river. This is fast becoming my favorite escape from the foggy city by the bay, and it is oddly always summer there.

Stumptown Brewery's fresh micro brews
Stumptown Brewery Patio

Also, fantastically there's a food truck that hangs out at City Hall on Fridays as a part of San Francisco's Off The Grid food truck movement that surprised the southern out of me with their undressed pulled pork (you add the sauce after, so weird!), fresh cabbage slaw and soft egg buns. Washed it right down with a large sweet iced tea and proceeded to sleep for an hour in the promenade.

Off The Grid, SF Food Trucks @ City Hall

Of course there are tons of recipes online, but this is the one I'm probably going to try first, unless I can bribe Damion with sugar cubes. I usually default to Ina Garten's methods because she's not afraid of butter, but I go to her mostly for fresh yet indulgent, cape cod fantasy cooking, not down and dirty southern. Food 52 has one that looks simple and, shall we say, "interesting." Coke, really? 

Inarguably, there are different styles of bbq that must be considered - Texas, Carolina and Memphis-style, to name a few. Each has their own subtle and nuanced flavors, methods and fervent followers. I'll just say I'm a Memphis gal, and leave it at that. You can't go on a pulled pork mission without tasting these:

Rendezvous - the most famous bbq in Memphis. 

Neely's BBQ - three locations throughout Memphis & Nashville. YUM!!

Corky's BBQboasting "Slow-cooked over hickory wood and charcoal. As we say...cookin' the old fashion way!" 

Is there a mouth watering bbq hole in your neck of the woods?


  1. my darling, you have EXACTLY captured my same experience trying to wrangle damion's pulled pork recipe/technique out of him. EXACTLY!!! asked a million times, gotten the same response a million times, have never successfully grasped enough to dare venture on my own. i've even asked if i can come over and just watch while he makes it and i get the same response, "well, that would be sort of boring because you just do [these six or four hundred things] and then let is sit for awhile and then you put it in the oven and then you've got pulled pork. it's really easy!"

    and yes, there is good bbq in brooklyn. i'm a giant fan of fette sau. dry rub, sauces on the side. beef cheeks have become my favorite, totally melt in your mouth and spicy as shit, but their brisket, spare ribs, pork belly, and pulled pork are all excellent. their sides leave something to be desired, but when i'm headed for bbq, i'm hardly thinking about how good the slaw is.

    i'll be in guerneville in september and i'm sure i'll be able to get damion and mike to go. yay for pork! and for your witty writing!!!

  2. Jenn, what are we going to do with Damion?? How can we get it from him?! He's such a slippery little charmer that we didn't even know he was giving us the slip!

    Fette Sau looks so awesome, it makes me want to get on a plane right now. If we're here in the same Sept. days as you are, maybe we'll piggy back (pun extremely intended) and chase you up to Stumptown.


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