Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque by Ed and Ryan Mitchell with Zella Palmer. 286 pages, more than 75 recipes, many colorful food photos alongside black and white historic photos. Published by Harper Collins (c ) 2023
Ed Mitchell is a legend. At the time of this writing, he and I are among the 36 living members of the Barbecue Hall of Fame. His book tells us how he got there and the traditions of the North Carolina pit and segregation.
Born in 1946, he made his reputation by mastering the hardest undertaking in the barbecue canon: Whole hog. That’s where his barbecue career began in 1991, at age 45, after his father died, cooking a small hog to comfort his tearful mother in the parking lot of the family grocery store in tobacco country in tiny Wilson, North Carolina. Business had slowed since his dad died, but the smoke and meat drew them in.
The next day he bought a bigger hog. He did it again and again and eventually, the grocery became “Mitchell’s Ribs, Chicken & Bar-B-Q” where he served pork from the rooter to the tooter cooked over logs. He served collards with backbones, pig’s feet, cracklins, and chitlins. His expertise has drawn the praise of barbecue lovers, culinary historians, and upscale chefs from around the world. Dressed in his signature denim overalls and ball cap, Mitchell and his son have appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s television show and in culinary festivals alongside Michelin-starred chefs. They believe that Mitchell smoking the whole hog makes a better pulled pork sandwich because it is a blend of shoulder, hams, and belly.
The Mitchells weave tales of their friends, neighbors, influences, and history through the book. He says “I barbecue not because I love hoisting 150-pound hogs over my shoulders, but because I want to keep the tradition of my African American ancestors alive.”
Surprisingly he is candid about the financial trouble he got into, how his bank foreclosed on his restaurant, and how he was jailed for failure to pay sales tax. He sued the bank for discrimination and won. It seems they behaved differently when white businesses fell behind on loan payments. But he spent 30 days in prison for the tax evasion. He confesses to being ignorant of the laws and sloppy with the books.
Mitchell left Wilson after that and opened a restaurant in Raleigh, closed it, and opened another in Durham that lasted only a year. Another is in the works at the time of this writing in 2023. He also sells three barbecue sauces, three rubs, a hot sauce, and his book on his website https://www.thepitmasteredmitchell.com.
He has been featured in Bon Appetit, the New York Times, National Geographic, in Michael Pollan’s Netflix series Cooked, and many other publications. Ryan is the business and tech expert of the ventures.
The recipes are true American Classics replete with the flavors and fragrances of black deep South home cooking. The first recipe is, of course, traditional Eastern North Carolina whole hog. They include his creations and recipes from friends and family including his Eastern North Carolina Vinegar baste and his BBQ Sauce, hush puppies infused with cracklins, fried green tomatoes, souse (a hog’s head paté), okra poppers, cheese biscuits, fish stew, pickled pigs feet, fried chitlins, fried pigs ears, tomato pie, rutabagas, beans, carrot cake, banana pudding, and pineapple whiskey lemonade to name a few.
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Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.