Sunday, February 3, 2008

REVIEW: Searching for the Dixie Barbecue

Searching for the Dixie Barbecue – Journeys into the Southern Psyche

By: Wilber W. Caldwell

Publisher: Pineapple Press

108 pages

If you happen to be on a dimly lit highway heading south and hit the intersection of Legend Street and Mythic Boulevard, pull over and look for a bookstore. Chances are, the bookstore will be featuring Wilber Caldwell’s ‘Searching for the Dixie Barbecue’. This isn’t a book as much as it is a travelogue. Featuring characters that would feel at home in the same milieu as John Henry and Pecos Bill, this book acts as a passport to an America that never was and yet somehow manages to linger just around the corner.

Caldwell has provided an insight into a culture that has been dying for decades, but may be in the process of rejuvenation. Primarily focused on the American south east, this book provides a glimpse into the mindset of a fiercely proud, dedicated and almost jingoistic part of our nations populace.

Full of beautiful black and white photos of BBQ joints (note that the proprietors would take umbrage at the term ‘joint’) that are around today but look like they stepped out of 1954, ‘Searching for the Dixie Barbecue’ provides not just a lyrical journey but a visual feast. The book very quickly pulls you in and refuses to let you go.

There are few recipes in here and there is less discussion of tips and techniques for the backyard cooker. Their absence isn’t missed. This is about the ephemeral moment in time that was the very soul of the rural south for a large part of the last century. This is a book that should be on the shelf of every BBQ aficionado and any student of the cultural history of America.

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