Hebrew School

The lake, the pork, the North

This post is a follow-up to this one.

A Jewish gentleman stood before a delicatessen display counter and pointed to a tray. “I’ll have a pound of that salmon,” he said.

“That’s not salmon,” the clerk said. “It’s ham.”

“Mister,” the customer snapped, “in case nobody ever told you, you got a big mouth.”

So yeah: Jews like to dig on the swine. And while I’m admittedly the worst possible spokesperson for American (let alone world) Jewry, I can safely declare that most Jews do not observe the laws of kashrut, nor do they shy away from pig partaking. No guilt, no sense of over-indulgence, just eating. This may seem obvious to Jewish readers, but I’m often bemused by non-Jews who are shocked that I (or you, or you) eat pork.

The whole thing only became enigmatic this past weekend when a group of us, embarking on a trip to enjoy New Hampshire’s beautiful nature and lakes, rolled up to the Yankee Smokehouse on Route 16 in West Ossipee. Boasts of the “largest open-pit this side of the Mason Dixon line” along with claims of Southern authenticity piqued our interest. (Also, we were very hungry.) And since our party happened to contain four Jews, two of whom were from the South (Atlanta and Tennessee), we were intent on setting the record straight.

In addition to it being the Shabbos, we also forgot that it was motorcycle weekend.

Fortunately the bikers mostly wanted to sit outside which meant there was still space for us.

The Friday night spread: pork ribs, baby-back ribs, beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, a whole chicken, sliced beef, sliced pork,…

… really good sauce (I thought).

But without further ado, the judges weigh in.

HS: What, if anything, made the Yankee Smokehouse particularly Southern?

TN: The open pit? I don’t know a good answer to this question. Lots of pig imagery. Friendly staff. Bikers (all the BBQ places I remember as a kid were on Lee Highway/Brainerd Road [Chattanooga], in very close proximity to the Harley Davidson shop).

ATL: The kitchy decor was very much like the south, as was the thorough hospitality and service.

HS: Where might it have fallen short?

TN: Two words: banana pudding. Two more words: sweet tea.

ATL: Oh yeah… essentials. And collard greens and other sides … Southern BBQ tends to have more sauce already on it (sometimes to the point of soupy), which I like.

TN: At most of the southern establishments, more sides are typically offered. Tasty goodness like fried okra, mac n’cheese, green beans, hush puppies, etc. Also, if I recall correctly, southern BBQ is typically more saucy. Or maybe I just slathered it on, which may well be the case. I remember it being a little more tender, but maybe I’m just having selective memory.

HS: Do you have anything to say about being Jewish and enjoying Southern BBQ, including swine?

TN: … At least three southern Jews that I know of started BBQ restaurants. See my cousin, Jeff Goldstein’s BBQ franchise, Sticky Fingers. Rib & Loin in Chattanooga was also started by another southern Jew. They all featured swine. It’s in our blood. It’s in all Jewish blood if you ask me. When I lived on the kibbutz in Israel in 1994-95, I witnessed firsthand the pigs they had hidden in the woods to slaughter for special events. Ain’t no foolin’ nobody, even God. [More on this phenomenon here.]

ATL: As a swine-loving jew, I can say that I am part of a long tradition.

HS: Any other comments?

TN: All said, the Yankee Smokehouse was delicious. My mama makes better BBQ chicken… but who’s counting? I’d say that our table of Jews (plus the honorary Jew) outnumbers the amount of Jews typically found at any southern BBQ establishment on a given day. But Sticky Fingers does wrangle them in like nobody’s business.

ATL: One more note about southern BBQ: it does vary substantially by region. For instance, in Georgia barbecue generally means pork, whereas in Texas it means beef (for obvious enough reasons). Also, in the Carolinas a BBQ sandwich has slaw on the sandwich. And of course the sauces vary a lot by region. Incidentally, in Mexican and central American cuisine, barbacoa is goat, which makes the most sense because of the root word barba or beard.

TN: Also, this may seem really trivial, but a southern BBQ place would never (or hardly ever) have things on the menu like a veggie burger. If you’re going to a BBQ establishment, you’re gonna eat the BBQ, not some tasteless meatfree alternative. Or if you are a veggie, that’s what the sides are for. Get a veggie plate instead. Baked cinammon apples, collard greens, mac n cheese, baked potato, caesar salad, etc…

Thanks guys!

Your blogger strikes a silly pose in his undersized collectible

We made sure to wait half an hour before jumping into Lake Wentworth at sunset.

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A perfect, perfect post. Practically a movie. Mouth-watering descriptions, and great photos. And, as if to further prove the point, while you were writing it, another swineophilic Jew, named me, was posting this into an online forum called the Well: “The orgasmically sublime noodles we had in Tokyo were homemade, thick as fresh fettucine but more silken, in a broth of milky crimson so intense, with grated ginger and miso, enriched with both pig and chicken bones, and so complex, like a classic French veal stock, that the taste-panorama went on for ten minutes after every sip; with slices of fatty Kagoshima pork belly on the side that had been cooked for days in shochu and herbs, richer than butter and nearly as tender. Just a tiny neighborhood place called Suzuran that it took us two hours of walking in the rain to find, and worth every slippery step.”


Comment by Steve Silberman

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