Guest Post with Gail Oust.We're talking summertime.
Some Like It Hot!
When I first read Shelley’s request for guest bloggers and a summer theme, my hand shot in the air so fast it created a breeze. I’m rarely the first person to jump on a band wagon of any sort since I’m more the wait-and-see type—another way of saying “procrastinator”—but I couldn’t resist. What would be more appropriate for Shelley’s blog than my latest Spice Shop Mystery, Kill ‘Em with Cayenne, which takes place before and during an annual barbecue festival in the fictional town of Brandywine Creek, Georgia?
Let me tell you, dear readers, research for this book was no hardship. I was on a mission. I felt it my duty, my obligation, as an author to portray Brandywine Creek’s festival as accurately as possible. So I did what any good writer would do. This transplanted Yankee visited every barbecue festival within a fifty mile radius of my adopted home in the Deep South. I wanted an up-close-and-personal experience. And that meant, of course, sampling a variety of scrumptious concoctions. I was hungry for the sights, the smells, the colorful details that give a book verisimilitude.
My advice: bring a hearty appetite and plenty of water. The first suggestion is self explanatory. You’ll be bombarded with mouth-watering offerings: baby back ribs, hash, brisket, pulled pork, and even chicken. An event I attended in Greenwood, South Carolina, was sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Luckily for me, since this was an actual contest, attendees were able to purchase tickets and use them to sample various entries, then use the tickets to vote for their favorite in the Backyard Division. Everything tasted fantastic! I’m happy that I wasn’t solely responsible for picking the winner. And why bring plenty of water? Because the heat given off by the huge grills lined up like soldiers in a military parade rivals a blast furnace. It’s important to stay hydrated so you can enjoy the day.
While researching, I learned a lot. First of all, I learned “barbecue” means different things to people in different regions of the country. Take the meat for instance. Memphis goes whole hog. They love ribs with the sauce often served on the side. Order barbecue in the Carolinas, and you’ll likely get a heaping plate of pulled pork. Texans love beef brisket. Kansas City, considered by some to be the nation’s barbecue capital, are partial to pork but share Texans fondness for beef and give chicken due respect. Sauce is a whole other topic. Eastern North Carolinians favor the thin, fiery, vinegar-based sauce, while folks in the western part of the state like a tomato-based vinegar sauce. A yellow mustard barbecue sauce is popular in South Carolina. Ask for barbecue in Memphis, ribs may be served “dry” or “wet” with sauce being applied near the end of cooking. In Kansas City, local pitmasters have perfected a spicy, sweet sauce, thick with tomatoes. It’s all a matter of taste. My last bit of advice: Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.