Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

There is such a thing as a good barbecue snob

06/05/2014 1:08 PM

06/05/2014 1:08 PM

We don’t take kindly to snobbery in Chow Town. Humility is a Chow Town value.

We are proud of our barbecue. We love it when out-of-chow-towners rave about our ribs, our brisket, burnt ends, rib tips, pork butt, sausages and our wealth of inventive barbecue sandwiches.

We’re passionate about our barbecue, but snobbery does not become us.

On the other hand, if you’ve judged at a local barbecue contest or overheard a zealous critic at a table near you in a local barbecue joint, you know we have some barbecue snobs in Chow Town.

They aren’t humble about rendering their verdict on good barbecue or bad barbecue.

“These ribs are so salty I’ll need a pitcher of beer to cleanse my palate,” they might say. Or, “Somebody call 911. This sandwich is so bad the pitmaster ought to be arrested!”

Our favorite Chow Town artist/cartoonist, Charlie Podrebarac, has sketched some classic caricatures of local barbecue snobs. One of my favorites is his “Barbeque Sauce Snobs,” depicting three righteous sauce flamers.

There are bad snobs and there are good snobs. I didn’t know the latter existed until I met one. Bad barbecue snobs are narcissistic and intolerant of the views of others, especially when those views are contrary to the snobs’ opinions. They fancy themselves as the Keepers of “BBQ Truth,” the only ones who grasp the “Big Picture.”

To everything there’s an opposite. That truth about barbecue snobbery is personified in “Texas Monthly” barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. Vaughn epitomizes the opposite of bad barbecue snobbery.

He is one of the good ones. Visiting with Vaughn, reading his blog, tweets, articles and his new book is a lesson in barbecue snobbery at its best. He tells it like he sees it and tastes it, without posturing as the sole expert and last word on the quality of anyone’s barbecue.

He is always about the barbecue and the people who make it. His respect for and understanding of those pitmasters who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of barbecue excellence and making a living at it is always evident, even when a pitmaster falls short of the mark on any given day.

Treat yourself to Daniel Vaughn’s barbecue classic, “The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue,” with artful, inspiring, often mouth-watering photographs by Nicholas McWhirter (An Anthony Bourdain Book, 2013), and don’t go to Texas without it.

We love our barbecue in Chow Town, but we allow that we owe a debt or two to Texans who helped put us on the barbecue map. Barbecue snobs like Daniel Vaughn are always welcome here.

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”

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