It seems no book these days can get by on title alone, but rather must also have some splashy subtitle thatmakes some wild and boastful claims of what you'll find inside. It's a sad truth, too, that so often the book itself pales in comparison to the subtitle and even sadder still when you've shelled out your hard-earned dollars to buy such a book. As a side note, you'll not find a review here on such books that will waste your money; Mama always said if you can't say anything nice then say nothing at all, so let the silence be your warning. But back to the topic at hand. Dotty Griffith, former food editor and currently the restaurant critic for The Dallas Morning News, has authored ³Celebrating Barbecue,² a book which carries the subtitle "The Ultimate Guide to America's Four Regional Styles of 'Cue". Although a claim of being the ultimate guide may be a pretty tall order, Griffith does her very best to live up to it and has brought forth a very fine book. Texas born and bred, Griffith quickly lets her reader know that her lifelong preference has been for the style of her home state. But she gives fair and thorough treatment to all. She opens her book with four well-researched chapters which cover the history of barbecue. Her writing style is so friendly and down-home that this book will read like an easy conversation with an old pal. In Part Two, Griffith defines the four styles of barbecue: Carolina, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City. There's a chapter devoted to each which includes a brief but all-encompassing introduction and a list of well-known restaurants from the region which best represent the style. She then follows with recipes of dishes that are classic to each style. For Carolina 'cue, she offers us pulled pork and recipes for six varieties of the vinegar-based sauce. For Memphis, we get recipes for the dry and wet ribs (but only one for rub). Texas style is definitely beef brisket, but also includes cabrito and sausage and for Kansas City we get sticky ribs with thick, sweet sauce. Griffith goes on to identify some other popular styles, like the California's Santa Maria tri-tip, Owensboro mutton and Kentucky burgoo. She then fills out the book with related barbecue recipes (including sides) and a chapter on desserts. Her penchant for detail from her newspaper background shows in the end when she closes with a chapter which gives resource information on associations, contests, publications, classes, ingredients and equipment and a glossary. All in all, the only drawback was I was left wanting more. Something called an ultimate guide should be the size of an encyclopedia, right? However, Griffith didn't put this together in some scholarly style that would fill hundreds of pages. Rather, she got the job done in a succinct 190 pages. Even at that, the book lives up to its subtitle and I know you'll feel good about the money you spent to buy it after you turn the last page.
This is a good book. It's different than some other barbecue books because it doesn't dwell on technique or one style of barbecue. It doesn't give opinions about which wood goes with what meat. It doesn't spend a lot of time on folksy tales. What it does give you is a well-rounded introduction into the four major U.S barbecue styles: Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City and Texas. And it gives you plenty of recipes to try. Within those four major categories, it drills deeper. For example, it shows you the distinction between barbecue from North Carolina and South Carolina. You learn about web and dry ribs in Memphis. It even covers some of lesser-known regional styles such as Owensboro, Ky. mutton and St. Louis snout. The diversity is also highlighted in the recipes. The book contains four different coleslaw recipes and includes barbecue and sauce recipes from Eastern Carolina, Western Carolina and South Carolina. Best of all, the writing and layout make it easy to follow and understand the recipes.
Everyone with an interest in barbecue can learn something from this book.