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Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country Paperback – April 1, 2005
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
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Through vivid descriptions of restaurants and barbecue joints around the country, stirred together with legends and bits and pieces of barbecue history, Lolis Eric Elie profiles the largely American pastime of barbecuing. Traveling from Texas to the Carolinas, the author chronicles the lore and traditions of the barbecue belt and collects recipes, descriptions and photographs of everything from barbecued cows' faces to pigs' snouts, on his quest to determine barbecue's role in American culture. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
While traveling with the Wynton Marsalis Band, Elie as road manager, Stewart as the photographer for Marsalis's book, Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, the authors consumed so much barbecue, they decided to go off on their own and write a historical, cultural and culinary study of this type of cooking. Driving through the Midwest and the South in their 1981 Volvo, with a tape of Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lighting" for company, they visited nearly 50 barbecue restaurants, talking to cooks, taking pictures and evaluating the food, most of which was undistinguished. The book abounds in local color and graphic details of barbecue preparations; the description of how cows' heads are cleaned at one place in Brownsville, Texas, is particularly grisly. Stewart's photographs include shots of many of the people they interviewed as well as studies of severed hogs' heads and intestines. Some of this is interesting, but a little barbecue research, like barbecue itself, goes a long way. Recipes, a barbecue bibliography and the addresses and phone numbers of the restaurants they visited are included. (May) FYI: Elie is now a columnist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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What resulted was around 50 different places, mostly below the Mason/Dixon, alot of the places some of you have heard of, Lem's, the Rib Joint, Kennys, in Chicago, Bryants, Gates, Rosedale, in KC, the Rendezvous, Cozy's in Memphis... and so on. The majority were word of the mouth, from locals in the area, "Hey, where can I get some good BBQ in this town". Some responses they got were unanimous, most were all over the map.
They talked to alot owners, chefs, pitmasters with names like Big Daddy, Ardie, Heavy, Chinamen, Buck, Oklahoma Joe and Chalmon. There were some items specific to one area, Cow Heads along the Tex/Mex border, mutton in parts of Kentucky, snoots in East Saint Louis, IL.
Some regions prefer mesquite wood, others hickory, oak, or pecan. In many parts of the Carolinas it's gas and electricity that do the cooking.
Some regions its sauce on the side, other regions its on the meats themselves. Some are Tomato based, other are vinegar, or mustard based.
My favorite part of the book was when the author and photographer are drafted to be judges at a BBQ competition in KY, ultimately the definitions of "what is BBQ" and even, "What is GOOD BBQ" are very, very subjective.
When I finally finished the book I had learned quite a bit about the subject, I never thought I knew alot.... but I guess I didnt realize how much I didnt know!
This book was hard to find, I paid twice the listed value, but I didnt pay the current prices listed on Amazon, look them up!!
So it is why I'll say, if this subject interests you, you should have this book...... and "No", I will NOT borrow you my copy... seriously.
I'll leave you with this passage from the book..."Barbecue, whatever the definition, is a central part of gatherings and celebrations throughout much of the nation. The fact that sauces and meats and methods of preparation vary so widely is testimony to the fact that barbecue has been branded with the accent of each region in which it has found a home. " Lolis Eric Elie
Immediately after finishing this book, I smoked a whole chicken. It took me all day, but it was worth it.