BBQ And Hockey. A Match Made Only In North Carolina

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 26: Stormy, mascot for the Carolina Hurricanes, poses for a portrait during 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend at Ottawa Convention Centre on January 26, 2012 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 26: Stormy, mascot for the Carolina Hurricanes, poses for a portrait during 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend at Ottawa Convention Centre on January 26, 2012 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

It is sung about, rhapsodized in poetry, and probably even dreamed about by little Tar Heel children napping.  Though scorned by some, it is well loved by most. Though ultimately satisfying, it is cloaked in a terrible debate. It is an aged debate that runs nearly as deep as Duke/Carolina, Liberal/ Conservative, Beach/ Mountains, and “who shot JR.” Unique to the Olde North State, some say it is greatest of fractures among Tar Heels. While this rift spans geography and cultures, as far as I know, it remains with a clarion call to muster with only folks and an appetite. This thankfully peaceful civil war rendering families remarkably untorn, can still illicit so much fervor. And how does it relate to hockey? We’ll get to the hockey in a minute, but first we must discuss BBQ.

How you say, spell it, and eat it are splinters in one of the greatest fractures of southern culinary arts. We southerners claim it, but the origins of this time honored creation are equally debatable. Most scholars (I want that job. BBQ scholar) agree it is Caribbean, with a trip through Spain. But how do you account for the French spelling? Where and when did it make its way to the “new” world? Was it brought? Was it already here, and just improved on?

Mustard based reigns supreme in South Carolina. Memphis and  Kansas City battle it out for the midwest, but who here in North Carolina really cares about that? Mayo based sauces even exist in Alabama. Is the meat more important or do sauces make the day? The only consensus is that BBQ shall NOT be confused with a cook-out. Yankees BBQ with burgers and hot dogs. The chosen people, that’s a joke folks…relax….eat Barbeque.

Here in North Carolina, we have our own trench lines firmly dug in overt Barbeque, and while friendly, it can get heated.

Devotees, which I count myself among that particular legion, of western NC prefer tomato based sauces with sweeter notes. Let’s face it, we like a side of diabetes with our pulled pork. Growing up in East Tennessee, that’s what we had, and it remains my beloved preference to this day.  I would put Ridgewood BBQ up against anything. I have also has plenty of great Que in Knoxville, and several decent iterations here in Raleigh.

Central North Carolinians tend to still hold the tomato base, but add a touch more vinegar. This is known as Lexington Style BBQ. Having lived just north of Lexington for several years, I can say this is a happy medium between my sweet western pallet and the vinegar based eastern BBQ. My favorite addition to Lexington BBQ is the hushpuppies. Many a hushpuppy will I consume with my BBQ. To paraphrase Dr. Suess “I do like it Sam I Am.” It pulls the tanginess out and tickles that ever present sweet tooth that is deeply rooted from all those years of eating western Que.

From Raleigh east, it is vinegar based. I’ve lived in Raleigh four years now, and lived in New Bern for a minute as well. I have eaten my share of eastern style and can say I love it. Not as much as that on which I was weaned, but I never turn up my nose. Usually, I pile my beans in to sweeten the lot, but those hushpuppies save the day time and time again.

Western, Lexington or Eastern, I love it, and won’t ever pass up the chance to delve into a plate. I’m here for it all. Ask around and you might just meet a witness to my drinking BBQ sauce. It’s also handy in more than one mixed drink. Instead of chicken and waffles, I prefer pancakes and BBQ..western or eastern it matters not. While I perfected the concept at William Peace University with eastern style, western or Lexington works just as well.

People, as one side of a recent social media conversation, defend their style to the last forkfull. I get it. For someone who only knows one thing, it can be hard to have that one thing questioned. But it does not negate the value of anything else. Especially when it comes to a matter of taste. It is perfectly ok for a western kid like myself to like sweet, savory, tomato based B-B-Que better than the tart, and almost crisp eastern. Just as I would never knock my friends on the coast for their vinegar based. Mainly because it is impolite to talk with your mouth full of BBQ, no matter which half of North Carolina you are eating it in.

If you are still here, and not gone looking for some Bar-B-Que to curb that soul deep hunger for your favorite style, you might be wondering what this has to do with hockey.

Not a lot really, except that you can get both styles at Carolina Hurricanes games. In my humbled, western North Carolina BBQ loving, opinion that is pretty freaking awesome!  All Canes fans can agree Bar-B-Que at a hockey game is just one of the great pieces making the Carolina Hurricanes unique in all of hockey. The Flyers can have their cheesesteaks, Buffalo their wings (though I won’t hate that either). Lord only knows what they eat in Tampa Bay or at a Kings game, but I’ll take my BBQ and Canes hockey with a Storm Brew any day. And I will even order eastern style.