In stories, recipes, and photographs, James Beard Award–winning writer Robb Walsh and acclaimed documentary photographer O. Rufus Lovett take us on a barbecue odyssey from East Texas to the Carolinas and back. In Barbecue Crossroads, we meet the pitmasters who still use old-fashioned wood-fired pits, and we sample some of their succulent pork shoulders, whole hogs, savory beef, sausage, mutton, and even some barbecued baloney. Recipes for these and the side dishes, sauces, and desserts that come with them are painstakingly recorded and tested.
But Barbecue Crossroads is more than a cookbook; it is a trip back to the roots of our oldest artisan food tradition and a look at how Southern culture is changing. Walsh and Lovett trace the lineage of Southern barbecue backwards through time as they travel across a part of the country where slow-cooked meat has long been part of everyday life. What they find is not one story, but many. They visit legendary joints that don’t live up to their reputations—and discover unknown places that deserve more attention. They tell us why the corporatizing of agriculture is making it difficult for pitmasters to afford hickory wood or find whole hogs that fit on a pit.
Walsh and Lovett also remind us of myriad ways that race weaves in and out of the barbecue story, from African American cooking techniques and recipes to the tastes of migrant farmworkers who ate their barbecue in meat markets, gas stations, and convenience stores because they weren’t welcome in restaurants. The authors also expose the ways that barbecue competitions and TV shows are undermining traditional barbecue culture. And they predict that the revival of the community barbecue tradition may well be its salvation.
Winner of threee James Beard Awards, Robb Walsh is the author of ten books, including Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses, The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, and Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, with More Than 200 Recipes. He has written for Gourmet, Saveur, and Fine Cooking, and has also been a commentator on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, Sunday. In 2010, Walsh cofounded a nonprofit organization called Foodways Texas to preserve and promote Texas food culture.
O. Rufus Lovett is a nationally acclaimed photographer and author of the books Weeping Mary and Kilgore Rangerettes. His work has received recognition from the prestigious Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Outstanding Magazine Photography. In addition to teaching photography at Kilgore College, Lovett works as a fine art and editorial photographer. His photo essays have appeared in Texas Monthly, American Photo, Photo Review, LensWork, People, and Gourmet. He has also been profiled in Southern Living.
"In the end, you feel privileged to have been invited along and a whole lot smarter about not only smoked meat in all of its many guises, but this lovely and confounding part of the country."
—Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
“This is an homage to a way of life that, unless tended to, may very well pass away in the next decade or two…The color photographs alone demand the book’s size, as do the more than 80 recipes, some of which can be duplicated by home chefs, such as parched peanuts made using a microwave and plain paper bag and melt-in-your-eyes fried pies (never mind what the sugar and cholesterol counts are). Walsh explores the relationship between pits and pulpits, wanders to Memphis (spiritual home of this kind of cookery), focuses on the charms of beer and community feasts, and more with charm, ease, and a methodical pace, reminding us how life and barbecue need to be savored.”
—Barbara Jacobs, Booklist
“Lovett's photography shows beautifully decaying signs, weathered hands stoking fires, embers glowing “deep in dark metal caverns, and barbecue platters of all varieties. It's the story of an American tradition that's endangered, for all that it's in vogue. One gets a sense of urgency from Barbecue Crossroads: preserve these traditions before it's too late.”
—Paula Forbes, Eater.com
“An important contribution to American folklore as a whole.”
—Peter Haight, co-host of On the Menu
“Award-winning writer Robb Walsh captures life and culture like a Steinbeck of the South. The story of barbecue is layered and intimate…There are visceral pleasures: the freshly chopped pork sandwich eaten at a Formica counter, coconut pie eaten over the car hood. But Walsh, who has written extensively about the history of Texas food, always gives you something deeper to chew on…A masterful piece of documentation, the book is a labor of love and time — like barbecue itself.”
—Eve Hill-Angus, Dallas Morning News
“Throughout this smoked-meat hegira Walsh lavishes Southern barbecue lore and history like he’s building an especially luscious pulled-pork sandwich. The stories and recipes he coaxes from these keepers of the flamer are what make “Barbecue Crossroads” such a tasty journey…Lovett’s photography makes this an especially sumptuous trek through the defining foods of the South.”
—Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle
“With this book, Robb Walsh secures his permanent residency in the pantheon of great American barbecue chroniclers.”
—John Egerton, author of Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History
“I know of no other barbecue book that covers so much territory so well. . . . Anyone who cares about the future of barbecue should read Barbecue Crossroads.”
—John Shelton Reed, coauthor of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue
"Barbecue Crossroads is cleverly served as a three-meat combo, equal parts history lesson, road trip memoir, and cookbook, with slick dollops of photographer O. Rufus Lovett's intimate shots glazing every corner of the plate … Regardless of your regional loyalties, Barbecue Crossroads is a must have book for anyone with a passion for pit crafted meats."
—Kenny Pailes, Austin Chronicle
"Robb Walsh and photographer O. Rufus Lovett create a densely layered love story about the comfort food of the South. Through amazing images and poetic prose, we meet the pitmasters and the pigs. We also learn that the old-school neighborhood trash can barbecue grill might be the salvation of the cookout culture."
—Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Senior Editor, Ebony