Aside from the people making the oral history recordings, I’m not sure there’s too many people who read up as much as I do on the history, culture and techniques of whole hog barbecue. Much of the reading is just down right depressing. You hear of these tiny remote out of the way towns doing whole hog as a dying art. It’s too labor intensive, too time consuming, too hazardous, etc. People don’t want their kids doing it, no one is making any money from it, the business dies with the owner etc. See what I mean? The ultimate culmination of this insult to injury narrative is that many have switched over to gas or electric cookers and more or less killed off any real tourist attraction feature it might have had.
It’s important to record some of the passing stories, to preserve their stories long after they and their art have passed on. Just importantly though, or I would argue even more importantly, are the profiles of those who ARE successful, who ARE preserving traditional whole hog barbecue without gas, who ARE looking to pass their craft down to their children. People like Pat Martin are the new generation of hog cookers. They have new standards of economics i.e. the fact that a pig cooked for 16 hours should NOT cost the same as a McDonald’s hamburger. Despite what old timers might think, the younger generation does value artisanal foods, ancient cooking, and preserving traditions.
Style – Modern West Tennessee. Martin uses a rub on his pork unlike the minimalist seasonings he learned. As traditional West Tennessee goes, wood is burned down to embers and shoveled underneath the hog in an open pit with a metal lid. His signature dish is the famous “Red-Neck Taco” in which barbecue is placed on a hoe cake and seasoned with hot sauce.
Fuel – Garden & Gun claims he’s burning hickory but I don’t have a confirming source. Would make sense, West Tennessee cooks love their hickory.
Sauce – Western Tennessee Red tomato vinegar sauce with spices.