Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bubba's Pit BBQ

There is something in the air. David Plotz at Slate has been on An American Barbecue Pilgrimage and Sean Alexander is celebrating that BBQ Season is here,�not only am I Addicted to Digital Media, I'm also addicted to good BBQ.�

It�s clear that the Barbecue means something different to these aficionados than it does to me in the UK and I need to find out what it is. Philosophically I am with George Foreman when he says, "call me anything, just don't call me late for dinner."

Sean Alexander points to the The BBQ Guy Blog, which in turn leads me to BBQ: A Southern Cultural Icon by Laura Dove.

When travelling through the South, your best bet for authentic and carefully prepared Southern cuisine is any of the many barbecue restaurants that dot the landscape. Don't be fooled by the casual atmosphere in most of these barbecue joints; these are the places where the legacy of Southern food is vigilantly protected. In the Southern United States, barbecue is a cherished cultural icon. In other areas of America, "barbecue" is a verb-- Northerners barbecue food on the backyard grill. In the South, however, barbecue is most definitely a noun. A barbecue is a gathering of food aficionados who appreciate the aroma of roasted meat that has been painstakingly smoked for several hours. Barbecue itself is chopped, sliced, or pulled meat liberally doused with a variety of (closely guarded) sauces.

So in Britain, it would seem, like all of the States outside the South, "barbecue" is a verb and the food is grilled out of doors. Down South, "barbecue" is a noun, and Louis Armstrong could go:

Struttin' with some barbecue.
Swinging with the band.
Like the happy people do
'way down in Dixieland.

Hear that slide trombone
and the trumpet "ad lib".
Love to hear a lick
while I do my picking.

Picking on a juicy rib,
cause I'm struttin' with some barbecue.
Feeling mighty grand.
Have another helping, please,
of that good old Dixieland.

And Mister Waiter,
- if you please -
another rib or two! And I go strutt, strutt, strutt
strutting with some barbecue.

I'm pretty sure that the opportunties for struttin' with some barbecue in SW19 are limited, but wait, Google suggests that I may be able to scratch my itch in Shoreditch.

In a historic market filled with diverse cuisine and a bustling maze of booths, Bubba Helberg stands out.

The Arkansas Cafe and Bubba's Pit Barbecue isn't what visitors would expect to find in Spitalfields Market, but there he is with a striped apron and a distinctly non-British accent.

Nowhere else in London will visitors find such authentic American barbecue, smoked next to the front door on a huge grill manned by Helberg.

Helberg, who grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas, about 120 miles from Little Rock, has been educating Londoners about the joys of genuine barbecue for 12 years.

Judging by the reservation-only lunchtime crowd, Londoners have enjoyed the lesson.

Watch this space. Unit 12, Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial St, London E1 (tube: Liverpool Street or Aldgate East, Tel: 7377 6999) will not remain unpatronised by me for long.

All together now ..

Struttin' with some barbecue.
Swinging having fun.
Like the happy people do
'way down in old E1.

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