A word from our guest blogger: Kentucky author Wes Berry
April is the cruelest month, said T.S. Eliot, the American poet who became an Englishman. Eliot probably wouldn’t have scribbled that famous line in his poem “The Waste Land” if he’d been living in Kentucky, where April brings Red Bud and Dogwood blooms, the SOKY Bookfest, and the sweet smell of animals cooked over wood coals. That’s right. It’s time for a barbecue.
In 2009 Professor Porkbelly (yours truly) officially hit the blue highways of Kentucky determined to eat at every barbecue joint from the Mississippi River to Appalachia, and a few years later and 25 pounds heavier I published the results in The Kentucky Barbecue Book.
What did I discover? We Kentuckians are like the big-souled poet Walt Whitman—large, containing multitudes of barbecue. We cook an impressive variety of God’s creatures on numerous contraptions, using diverse mops, sops, and sauces and different types of hardwoods. Bowling Green serves as an ideal hub from which to explore our distinct regional variations of wood-cooked meats.
Here, you can eat at our own Smokey Pig for a taste of the “Monroe Co. Style,” thin-sliced pork grilled over hickory coals and topped with a vinegary-lardy-peppery sauce, or drive over to Barren Co. or Monroe Co. to sample several variations on this style of BBQ localized in a few-county region in southcentral Kentucky. This short video of R & S Bar-B-Q in Tompkinsville showcases this sweat-inducing BBQ treat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rBZ46r-dBI You like Buffalo style wings? Then you’ll probably dig the heat of Monroe Co. style. Get it “dipped” if you like a tingly tongue.
Over in Hopkinsville you can fill up on mutton and whole pork shoulders cooked on traditional masonry pits at places like The Woodshed, a family owned joint who just celebrated their 30-year anniversary. In this video, we get a behind-the-scenes look at their barbecue pits. Warning: it might make you hungry.
And there’s much more to explore, many kinds of microregional flavors of barbecue—all within a day trip of Bowling Green. I’ll be signing copies of The Kentucky Barbecue Book (which includes reviews of 115 of my favorite Kentucky barbecue places + 16 pages of colored photos + over 30 recipes + a regional BBQ map) at the SOKY Book Festival, and I’m delighted to send a signed copy of my book right to your mailbox from my website.
So, come on down, or up, or over and explore this lovely place on earth. The Red Bud trees will soon be popping, the spring peepers peeping, the lambs bleating—and someday those lambs will grow into mutton, which is oh-so-delicious when cooked for many hours over wood coals. Oh, and do try burgoo if eating at one of the 18 barbecue places in the state that make it.
Love and peace and smoky treats, and May the Pork (or mutton) be with You!
Special thanks to Wes Berry, our guest blogger! Find more on Professor Porkbelly, his writings and order his book here: