Manwich is not barbecue and lutefisk is not good
Come summer you can “sho-nuff” get your fill of barbecue in Summit County.That thought’s prompted from conversations in the past couple of days with Linda Lichtendahl, who’s organizing the 12th annual Frisco Barbecue Challenge, and Brenda Cameron, who’s organizing Rotary’s annual affair, which will again be in Dillon.Actually, you don’t have to wait until summer. There are several restaurants serving some pretty darned good barbecue every day in Summit County. Having lived in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and in Virginia, I come by my fondness for barbecue honestly. In Alabama, there’s Dreamland, which I can’t help but believe serves the best ribs to be had in America. If you don’t like barbecue, don’t go there because the only items on the menu are barbecue, white bread, beer and iced tea.In Texas, there’s Smitty’s Body Shop and Used Cars, where they do indeed serve lunch every day. It’s the only place I know you can get brisket, a beer and an old Buick on your lunch break.In Mississippi, I recommend crossing the border into Memphis, Tenn., for the dry ribs at the Rendezvous. Cross the street from the Peabody and head down the alley. You won’t be disappointed.
And in Suffolk, Va., there’s a little no-name diner on the road south out of town to North Carolina that serves pork sandwiches with slaw so good that my mouth is watering just writing about it.One of my Alabama buddies describes food like this as “So good it’ll make you want to slap yo’ mama.” I’ve never quite figured out what that means but I understand every time those words come drawling out of his mouth.I could eat barbecue just about every day.Given that I take medications daily for high blood pressure and out-of-control cholesterol explains why I don’t.As much good barbecue as I’ve consumed through the years, I can tell you without hesitation where folks are pretty much clueless when it comes to many things culinary, most especially barbecue.I’m of course referring to northern Minnesota, where I published a group of newspapers for five years.Granted, Minnesotans sure know how to fry walleye, but, and this is the honest-to-God truth, it’s the only place I’ve lived where people actually thought Manwich (yes, I’m talking about sloppy Joe in a can) was real barbecue.
In fact, it’s what was served at the annual Crazy Days festival in the Rotary tent each July under the heading “Barbecue.” Now I’ve written some columns through the years that have garnered swift and furious reaction. But the column I penned which received the most violent reaction from Norwegians was the one about the barbecue.You see, I was trying to understand and explain why in the world anyone would think of Manwich as barbecue. After all, we’re basically talking about spiced up Hunt’s tomato sauce poured over ground beef.I should have written that they just didn’t know better, most of them not having traveled any further south than South St. Paul.But I went a bit overboard and I made disparaging remarks about lutefisk. I suggested it should come as no surprise that those who thought dried fish soaked to the point of dissipation in a poisonous cleaning agent was a delicacy could, in fact, confuse Manwich with good ol’ southern barbecue.Had I left it there I might have been OK. Though probably not.I went on to add that my theory on Christ feeding the 5,000 with a couple of fish and some loaves of bread was that the food was provided by a Norwegian and was actually lutefisk and lefse. Each person, in turn, took a look at the plate, said “no thank you” and passed it along.
Come on, you have to admit that’s at least worth a chuckle.It’s not like I was the only person in Minnesota who made fun of lutefisk. In fact, Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame has probably come closest to accurately describing lutefisk when he referred to it as “like devouring a plate of phlegm.”Actually there’s a happy ending.My fellow Rotarians in Fergus Falls conscripted me to work at the barbecue the next year, which I did. Fortunately, a fellow named Elmer moved to town from San Antonio. Not only was he a Rotarian but his hobby was cooking brisket.And so far as I know, they’ve never served Manwich at Crazy Days since.Publisher Jim Morgan writes a Tuesday column. He can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 240, or email@example.com.
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