Dialogue: A Look at the History of Barbecue

Jul 7, 2021

East Tennessee is not exactly known for its barbecue the way other regions of the South are. Kingsport-native and barbecue expert John Shelton Reed describes his shifting perspective on East Tenessee BBQ in his new compilation On Barbecue writing, "I'm now convinced I was wrong to write that East Tennessee has 'no real barbecue tradition,' but it's fair to say that it has no real tradition of barbecue restaurants, and what restaurants exist now don't adhere to any local tradition."

On this episode of Dialogue, we'll consider why a distinct barbecue restaurant tradition didn't take root in East Tennessee. We'll also look beyond Tennessee at the history of barbecue to better understand regional traditions and who shaped barbecue into what it is today. As Adrian Miller writes in his new book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue, "Defining barbecue, locally and globally, is highly dependent on time, place, class, race, and a fair amount of mythmaking."

And of course, we'll talk about where to get the best barbecue and learn a few recipes to cook your own. WUOT's Claire Heddles will be joined by Adrian Miller and John Shelton Reed Wednesday at noon on WUOT. We'll take your calls at 865-974-5050; tweet us @WUOTFM or submit your question on WUOT's Facebook page.    

ADRIAN MILLER is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and recipient of a James Beard Foundation Book Award for Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. A consultant on Netflix's Chef's Table BBQ, Miller's most recent book is Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue

JOHN SHELTON REED is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology (Emeritus) at the University of North Carolina. He is the author or editor of twenty-two books, mostly about the South and Southern culture. He is co-founder and Éminence Grease of the Campaign for Real Barbecue (TrueCue.org). His new compilation from the University of Tennessee Press is On Barbecue.