BULLshot: Ryan Glenn Smith

BULLshot: Ryan Glenn Smith

JH: Our man in Ventura is quite specific about the perfect barbecue lunch—how about some more elaboration from you, a true Memphis Tennessean?

RGS: Barbecue in Memphis is probably second only to the Baptist Church in its cultural importance and the dogma that accompanies it. So I feel comfortable saying that what they do in Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas, and in Chicago, where I live now, is idolatry. Brisket is a false god. Maybe the distinction should be made that there’s small-b barbecue, which is any of that slow-cooked, smoky meat that you can find in those other places, and worldwide, Latin America, Asia, and so on. A lot of that is really, really good, don’t get me wrong. But then there’s the big-B Barbecue, that which is elevated to a religious experience. The Barbecue that Memphis is known for, that we have the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP for, is all about the pork: shoulder, ribs, whole hog. At the Memphis championship and around the restaurants and shacks and stands in the city in general, sauces find themselves off in the margins with the wings and seafood and beef. When I see ribs covered in some sticky, sweet sauce, I get angry because someone just went and ruined what might have been a perfectly good piece of meat by slathering it with some ketchupy-pancake syrup. Likewise, when someone goes to the trouble of smoking a pork butt all day and then pulls it apart just to drown it, that cook should do the world a favor and just plunge his own head into that rotten sauce and save the meat for those of us who appreciate it. The perfect sandwich then, is pulled pork, moist, salty, and smoky. You want some of the crusty, outer bark bits from the surface that cooks the most. It’s on a white bun — nothing fancy. Wonder Bread. Some cole slaw on top, and if you must have it, a small squirt of a spicy, vinegary sauce.


About the Author

Jarrett Haley is the editor of BULL.