02/04/05 — Fling ’em, boys! Eastern ’cue aficionados may resort to hush puppies

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Fling ’em, boys! Eastern ’cue aficionados may resort to hush puppies

Three insurgent legislators from Davidson County have thrown a bomb that could turn North Carolina into a firestorm of controversy.

Davidson County is where Lexington is, and this truculent trio has introduced a bill that would make Lexington the home of North Carolina’s “official state” barbecue festival.

No doubt, the ambushers felt that their prospects would be improved by forming a bipartisan coalition. One of them, Rep. Hugh Holliman, is a Democrat, and the other two, Reps. Jerry Dockham and Stan Bingham, are Republicans.

Wayne County’s legislators, and those of other counties in the East, must be equally united against them. We should start with diplomacy. Anything else, such as throwing hush puppies at the provocateurs, should be only a last resort.

If it comes to that, the conflict could be long and difficult. The belligerent nature of the sponsors of the bill is demonstrated by their comments, and there can be no exit strategy for us except victory. Or, maybe, reasonable compromise.

It wasn’t enough for them to claim exclusive state sanction of the Lexington Barbecue Festival. That would be understandable. After all, the festival has been held every summer for more than 20 years. If they wanted to call attention to it, you couldn’t blame them.

It was what they said that was incendiary. They said that they not only have the biggest barbecue festival, but that people enjoy Lexington barbecue more than Eastern barbecue.

This is war talk. The fact is that most people enjoy the mouth-watering flavor of tender, slow-cooked, vinegarized Eastern barbecue, spiced to one’s taste, meat whose fragrance you can detect a mile away as it simmers through the night over oakwood coals, and is served with a delicious cole slaw and tasty cornbread, and maybe a little Brunswick stew ... Oops! We digress. It’s so easy to get carried away.

Anyhow, there are plenty of barbecue festivals in the East — including Wayne County’s new Feast in the East, which drew thousands of appreciative visitors to Goldsboro last October. It would be unfair for the Legislature to declare that one festival — especially one that celebrates inferior product — excels all others.

Eastern barbecuists might prove their point by carrying samples to Raleigh and letting the aroma permeate the Legislative Building just about lunchtime when hunger begins to set in amongst the Honorables. Once they followed the scent to the barbecue and got a taste, it is unlikely that any of them could agree that another type was better. Especially that namby-pamby sweet stuff they serve in Lexington.

If an Eastern feast didn’t convince the lawmakers, there are always protest signs. And if worse came to worse, a good hard spatter of a hush puppy upside the head might be persuasive.

Published in Editorials on February 4, 2005 9:18 AM