Q fix: sauce and religion

Those who want to see firsthand evidence of the American love for alternately-spelled words have to look no further than the myriad Southern spellings of the word "barbecue," or the vast creativity that goes into Southern church names.

Jeff and I have joked repeatedly through the years that there's a book floating somewhere around the universe - a book we haven't yet seen - that contains nothing but code words that new churches use when trying to pick out a name. The end result: a potential parishioner (in a perfect world, anyhow) should be able to drive around town, reading off the names, until they find the church that exactly fits their needs just by reading the sign by the street.Some words are more obvious than others: Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic come to mind. A notable exception is 'Church of Christ,' which can be either a sect (as in "Church of Christ on Fifth Street") or a code phrase ("Church of Christ in Prophecy") or something else entirely ("Church of Christ Scientist").

Past that exception, the words quickly become confusing for the average passer-by. What is a 'primitive' Baptist? A 'True Temple Church of God'? (Are the others false temples?) What about "Church of God" in general? (The literal readers among us might ask, 'As opposed to...?')

My favorite Huntsville church name still has to be 'Pentecostal House of Prayer & Deliverance.' Now that, my friends, is as fundamentally descriptive of a church name as you're likely to find in this area. It has to be a bit difficult getting that name to fit on an address label, but no one who walks into that church has the slightest doubt of what will be found there on a Sunday morning.

Ah, the South. As far as I can tell, humanity hasn't been officially informed that the deep South is actually another planet. A pity, really; perhaps if we just broke down and told them, we could finally secure the right to shoot Southern-Challenged Yankees on sight.

As far as I can tell, visitors not from the South fall into the following highly unofficial categories:

  • folks
  • visitors
  • Yankees
  • damn Yankees
  • New Yorkers
  • Carpetbaggers

New Yorkers and carpetbaggers

These two categories can be considered together, as their attitudes and actions are identical, though their origins differ. Classic New Yorker reaction to anything Southern is approximately 0.05 seconds of "Oh, how delightfully rustic" followed by an in-depth explanation of why [New York, for New Yorkers; other-random-city for Carpetbaggers] is far more technologically/socially/culturally advanced than the South.

Until some official apologies are secured for the large-scale burnings in Georgia, we plan to shoot Carpetbaggers on sight until further notice. They're not as intrinsically funny as New Yorkers, whom we let live because their shoes are funny.

Cultural example: This category is generally unwelcome at barbecues. (Something about not wasting a perfectly good pig on them.)

Behavioral example: When presented with a baseball cap by a Southerner, a New Yorker or Carpetbagger will pretend they didn't hear the offer because a) the hat was tacky b) it would mess up their hair c) they couldn't understand the dialect of the question.

[damn] Yankees

Not quite so bad as New Yorkers or Carpetbaggers and, resultingly, less likely to be shot on sight by the locals. Generally reserved for those who move south and steadfastly refuse to drawl their words. Occasionally, this phrase is a compliment - see 'folks.' The difference between "damn Yankees" and just plain "Yankees" is generally determined by thickness of accent; "damn Yankee" accompanied by the rolling of eyes generally translates to "Can't understand a word she said."

Cultural example: You'd invite a Yankee to a barbecue partly for the humor value, and partly so they could finally find out what soul food was really like.

Behavioral example: When presented with a baseball cap by a Southerner, a [damn] Yankee will actually acknowledge the question, but may or may not take the hat, depending on what team logo is printed on it.


As a rule, 'visitors' are not shot. They've been here a while. They understand the rules, though don't always play by them. No drawl, but a refreshing lack of the superiority complexes seen in other categories. Usually really good for storytelling - this is the first category allowed to tell redneck jokes, because they're equally likely to tell funny Yankee stories too.

Cultural example: You'd invite a visitor to a barbecue because they probably like the food.

Behavioral example: When presented with a baseball cap by a Southerner, a visitor will take the hat, thank the giver, and possibly put it on immediately. Once they get home, they'll decide whether or not to wear it again.


In other words, "us." Someone who moved South, caught on, relaxed a bit, and got over themselves in the process. May still occasionally be referred to as "damn Yankee" but in the best possible light: "He might be a damn Yankee, but he's always around when you need him."

Cultural example: You'd invite folks to a barbecue because if you didn't, it'd be rude and your wife would beat you six ways to Sunday.

Behavioral example: When presented with a baseball cap by a Southerner, folks will take the hat, thank the giver, and immediately put it on. If they like it, they'll be buried with it. If they don't, it'll be their fishing hat and they'll still wear it anyway.

With that explained, I'll mention that Jeff and I went out hunting for barbecue last night. Call it what you want: barbecue, barbeque, bar-b-q, bbq, or just pulled pork. There are three main types of barbecue sauce: red (tomato-based), white (mayonnaise-based), and yellow (mustard-based).

If you want to see cluelessness about barbecue, read this article by a painfully deluded Atlanta writer. Hate to break it to him, but mustard-based barbecue isn't an Alabama thing, it's a South Carolina thing - apparently he can't tell Alabama from South Carolina (hint: read the road signs on your way out of Georgia).

Mustard-based is rare around here; if that's your favorite, you're unlikely to find anything that reminds you of home. White sauce is a deep-deep-DEEP-South sauce for barbecued chicken; I've never seen anyone put it on pork.

The true debate comes down to the red sauce. There are two varieties: sweet and thick, and thin and vinegary. If you were raised on sweet red sauce, you're likely to turn your nose up at vinegar-based sauces for the rest of your life and vice versa. Most businesses do only one, and assume that those who are of a different sauce religion will just go somewhere else for their Q.

Every now and then you'll find a business that does both: they slow-roast until the meat flakes, and then provide your choice of sauces on the table. They'll ply you with hush puppies (hush domesticats?) and plop down a pile of pulled pork that, when doused with the sauce of your choice, isn't quite home but tastes like something that, eaten enough times, might just take its place.

You'll have to excuse me; it's nearly one p.m. and those sauce-doused leftovers in the fridge are calling my name.


Hmm..... I must be an f-ing Yankee then. Barbeque is a method of cooking any meat over flame.

Only one place comes to mind after that last paragraph: Thomas's on Hiway 72 @ Wall-Triana.. ;)

Ok...about barbecue and Alabama. 99.9% of tomato-based barbecue sauce has vinegar in it, because most of it is based on ketchup, which is vinegar and tomatoes. You've forgotten vinegar sauce, which is vinegar and spices and no tomatoes. Alabama tends to go either tomato-based or vinegar-based; most Colbert County bbq is served with sauce on the side. (Note: bbq in NW Alabama almost always refers to pulled pork, at least on my side of the river.) We don't need no stinkin' sauce. Nirvana is a fantastic bbq sandwich with coleslaw, where the bbq is slow-cooked, pulled pork rubbed with a whackload of spices that'll get the lungs cleaned out. North Carolina is almost purely a vinegar state, with a little mustard hangover from South Carolina. I'm not sure about Tennessee; the good place in Tullahoma is vinegar-based, I think. Mississippi is tomato or vinegar.

*heh* Ok, I thought the vinegary version had tomatoes in it too, because it was red. Maybe I should've described the two as thick-and-sweet versus thinner-and-vinegary. Gee, I couldn't have grown up on the sweet/tomato-based side, could I? Oh, and Andy - yeah, you're a damn Yankee, but in that lovable sense. *heh*

I know I sent this to you already, but for anyone else interested: How To Tell A True Southerner. (This Texas-born guy with a California heart hereby has no further comment whatsoever.)

Hey ... I thought the difference was this: A Yankee's from "up yonder". A damn Yankee stays.

I dearly love reading your stories! They always give me a good laugh. I'm very fond of Gibson's BBQ on the Parkway near Airport . Of course that could be because of their pecan pie ;) For me, the sweeter the sauce, the better it is. Since I don't have much of a Southern drawl I wonder what category I fit in? Born in Texas, raised in Alabama, emigrated to Georgia by way of Florida.

Whitt's Barbecue in Ardmore (there are like 3 of them in this one small town) is really good. I don't know how you categorize their sauce. Vinegar maybe? It's brown and liquid. Not like any other bbq sauce I've ever seen. Then you put slaw on top of your sandwich along with their liquid sauce. Depending on how much you use, you may have to hold your bun together. :) They also use their white sauce on Turkey, instead of chicken. That's a good low-er fat version of bbq.

Whitt's is good. As is Smokey's on 72 in Madison. My all time favorite (which I happen to have baggies full of in the fridge) is 'The Little Dooey' in Starkville and Columbus Mississippi. This BBQ is featured every time ESPN comes to town and is just excellent. Mmmm... now I wish it were lunch time.

The Little Dooey: The. Best. Barbeque. For. My. MONEY.

What abouot Dreamland sauce? It may be red(dish brown) but if you analyze the flavor (and ingredients, I think), it's definitely chock full of mustard. I reserve the right to retract this comment should I get home to read the label and be proven totally incorrect.

Erik - I haven't had Dreamland's sauce, so I can't vouch for it. If you happen to take a look at the label, let me know what's on there. I'm curious. Everyone's so opinionated on the subject of barbecue - in our local gatherings, "going out for barbecue" has never been mentioned...ever. Maybe it should be. *heh*

So...for any Huntsvegas natives who didn't figure it out from the reference to hushpuppies, Amy and I were at "the old Greenbriar" (officially "Greenbriar Restaurant" as opposed to "Greenbriar Barbecue" or "the new Greenbriar"). I have really come to like this place, and I can't believe it didn't occur to me until the other night to take Amy there. However, I think my favorite barbecue is at a little place called "Woodrow's Pit Barbecue". It's on Highway 43, several miles north of Northport, AL. It was the preferred place to go get food for office lunches when I was a co-op in Tuscaloosa. The pit is built right onto the building, and you basically buy the pork by the pound with a loaf of bread and a big cup of their home-made sauce. This stuff is tomato-based, but it's much spicier, much thinner, and more vinegar-y than the typical "sweet" sauce. Good stuff.

Ha! I'm amused by those wacky things that local churches tend to post on their marquee's. "Do you give God what is right, or what is left?" "It may not be cool to be Christian, but it's hot in hell." Ad infinitum!

Further clarification on the vinegar vs. tomato... As Heather mentioned, the vinegar sauce is a predominantly NC sort of thing, though you will find outcroppings of it in the upper SC lowcountry (think the deserted area between Sumter and Myrtle Beach). It's got a little bit of a kick to it, but can be quite tasty if done correctly. There is a tiny general store in the middle of a corn field somewhere east of Sumter that does it beautifully. Humorous story involved in finding that one... The most famous mustard-based chain in SC is Maurice's. Their sauce is edible on chicken, but tastes lousy on pork or beef. I'm sure that comment could get me stoned in some parts of SC. Tomato sauces are an eastern TN thing. This is what I grew up on and have only been able to find shadows of those culinary delights since I left that region. Sean, if you're still spending time in JC, drive out the Bristol Hwy sometime...about half-way to Bristol is the site of one of my fondest memories of BBQ. The place around the corner from us now (NE GA) serves something of a hybrid between the tomato and vinegar sauces. It's quite good, but not Nirvana. USC actually had a professor (tenured) who was conducting research on "BBQ regions." Imagine getting paid to drive around the southeast and eat.

"Old Greenbriar" is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Just good ol' country cookin'.

Amy, it sounds like it's time to take Jeff out behind the woodshed and give him a good talking to. ;-) You've -got- to go to Dreamland (if you like ribs anyway). The one in Tuscaloosa has more atmosphere but the one in Birmingham serves sides if you're into that sorta thing. Anyway, here we go: Water, tomatoes, high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, mustard seed, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, mustard flour, natural and artificial flavorings, salt, red peppers, paprika, food starch modified, molasses, vegetable gum (xantham, guar, alginate), soybean oil, hickory smoke flavor, mustard bran, granulated onion and garlic, citric acid, caramel color, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), tumeric, red 40 Of course, this is off the retail packaging and the stuff they use in house probably doesn't have some of the more "unnatural" items. I say this because I'm of the impression that they mix their sauce in house because the specific qualities (sometimes slightly spicier, sometimes slightly sweeter) vary from visit to visit. Anyway, good luck classifying this one (as it's got plenty of mustard-based ingredients to go with the tomatoes). It sounds like Woodrow's (described by Jeff - I'll have to check it out on my next trip to Starkvile [brother at MSU]) may be of a similar consistency and flavor to Dreamland. Ok, ok... back to work (for me). Drop me a line if you convince Jeff to drive 2-3 hours just for ribs. ;)

I'm going down to visit some folks in T-town ... when I go, I'm hitting Dreamland. mmmmm

andy: no, that's grilling. Barbecuing involves the application (during or after cooking) of one of the aforementioned sauces. oh, and to some people, sauce IS religion. ;)

Having grown up in the western reaches of New York state, and forever getting this comment from native left coasters: "You're from New York? Wow, you don't have the accent!" (Me: No shit, sherlock, NYC was 8 hours away)... I presume you mean New Yorkers to be New York *City* residents. :) Big difference. (Where I come from, we kick everyone's butt at chicken wings, so nyah.:) )

Hey........ I'm trying to find the best tastng BBQ - vinegar based- I ever ate....I ate it at a place called... Thomas's BBQ in Huntsville, Alabama.... any ideas how I can try this again (not just going back) which i plan to do someday....... Thanks, Joan

Thomas's isn't in my phone book. :(