Indigo Insights

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
More on Barbecue Wars

Check the Congressional Record. It's there somewhere that Congress awarded the Champion Barbecue Cooking Award to The Skylight Inn, of Ayden, Pitt County, North Carolina. This was (and is) whole hog pit cooking. There was a front page article in the little town's paper with a documented bio stating that the Dennis family had been selling BBQ in and around Ayden since around Civil War time. Texas became a state during the time period 1846-1861. Pork and beef is like oranges and apples, don't you think?
Posted by: Indigo at July 15, 2003 10:51 PM

I left the above comment for A Single Guy in the South, mainly for the Texans who seemed to be claiming they invented barbecue. Upon doing a little research, however, Lo! and Behold! I discovered that Ayden, NC barbecue dates back to 1830 - looooooooooooong before Texas became a state. Some of the Googled-up references are:

USA Today -- June 16, 2001

Pitstops Along the Barbecue Highway

Pete Jones's Skylight Inn
S. Lee Street
Ayden, NC 28489
(919) 746-4113
Located off the beaten path in the hamlet of Ayden, the Skylight Inn was founded by Pete Jones in 1947 on a site where his ancestors had made barbecue for a century or more before him. There it sits on the coastal plains of eastern North Carolina, capped with a replica of a rotunda (not unlike the one on the U.S Capitol building in Washington) that, in turn, is topped off with a huge American flag.

If you don't use the whole pig, it's not barbecue.
Pete Jones, age 73, owner of The Skylight Inn (4617 Lee St., Ayden, N.C.; 252-746-4113).

Learned the art: From his uncle Emmitt Dennis, whose family claims a professional barbecue heritage dating to 1830. "I've been working at it since July 6, 1935. ... My uncle had me toting wood and chopping meat. He said if I put a cleaver in each hand, I wouldn't cut my fingers off."
Tricks of the trade: "We smoke the whole pig — if you don't use the whole pig, it's not barbecue. ... We do a medium chop with some cracklin' (crispy skin) added in there for taste and texture. Then we use salt, pepper, vinegar and Texas Pete (a hot sauce)."
Stack fact: The Skylight Inn went through $23,000 worth of oak and hickory last year.
Barbecue beef: "The health inspector is trying to make me go to a stainless-steel cooker. He says they're more sanitary. ... There's only a handful of us wood-cookers left."

"In eastern North Carolina, the meat is moistened with a peppery vinegar sauce. In western North Carolina, ketchup is added, while in South Carolina, mustard and a sweetener are key ingredients."

If you don't use the whole pig, it's not barbecue.

Cole slaw
The Carolinas restaurants win this, hands down. Cooks pay extra attention to their cabbage because it's an integral part of every pork sandwich. Two superior versions — finely minced and perfectly balanced between sweet and tart — can be found at The Skylight Inn in Ayden, N.C. (252-746-4113) and Parker's Barbecue in Wilson, N.C. (252-237-0972).

NC BBQ Society Message Board
There are 77,000 results of a Google search on what may be found in the Congressional Record. I truly don't have time for that search, but documentation from The Ayden News-Leader may be obtainable to anyone interested.