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Advocate for N.C. barbecue speaks to China Grove Rotarians

By Sara Gregory
Salisbury Post
CHINA GROVE ó The barbecue war should be between North Carolina and the rest of the country, barbecue maven Jim Early said Tuesday.
And instead of arguing about whether the vinegar or tomato-based ‘cue is the best, Early says to embrace the state’s barbecue diversity.
“We have too long been known for our barbecue war. This is on a national level,” Early says, adding that he’s had to explain to one woman that no, North Carolina’s “west coast” does not fight with its east coast.
“They don’t really understand what we fight about, they just know that we fight.”
After visiting more than 225 barbecue restaurants in all 100 N.C. counties and talking with 1,800 people about where to find the best, Early knows the differences well.
He told members of China Grove’s Rotary Club on Tuesday what it was like spending weekend after weekend on the road taste-testing barbecue across the state as he wrote his book, “The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy.”Early, a Winston-Salem trial lawyer, hunter and gourmet chef, would spend Monday through Thursday at his law practice before leaving to visit barbecue restaurants.
“All I tasted the whole weekend was barbecue,” he says.
At each place, he would ask for every style of barbecue it served, in addition to a teaspoon of cole slaw, one hushpuppy, lemons and a glass of water.
Being fair and objective in his barbecue critique was always on his mind, Early says.
Since his first book, Early’s become an advocate for N.C. barbecue. He founded a state barbecue society and created a historic “barbecue trail” that winds through 25 restaurants that cook barbecue in the old-fashioned pit style.
Early, who has eaten barbecue throughout Europe and in every state except Hawaii, says especially in this part of the state, there is no shortage of places to eat the pig.
“In this area we are blessed with good barbecue places.”
Contact Sara Gregory at 704-797-4257 or sgregory@salisburypost.com.

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