I’ve come to the realization that there are few things in life more rewarding than returning home from a business trip. The kids are always happy to see you and offer warm, enthusiastic greetings as if they might have actually missed you or something. The wife, who, because you abandoned her and your four children for 48 hours, has every right to relinquish all child responsibilities to you and declare that she’s shutting herself into her room with a gallon of ice cream and a Dr. Phil marathon, instead gives you a smile and a nice welcome home smooch. If you’re lucky, there’s a hot, homemade meal soon to follow.
I was lucky. And yes, it’s good to be home.
I spent yesterday and most of today in Greenville, South Carolina for work. For only being an overnight stay, it was a very productive trip. I left feeling good about what we’d accomplished. The best part about it, though, had nothing to do with work. The best part was that I got to have some real Carolina barbecue.
As you can probably guess, I’ve had the Carolina-style ‘cue plenty of times in my life. I’m no stranger to the slow-cooked pulled/chopped pork or the vinegar and mustard based sauces that can be a little a little sweet and tangy or downright punchy. Yes, I’ve had plenty of all that in my day.
I’ve just never had it from Carolina.
I’ve been to Texas several times, and have sampled barbecue from several places in the Lone Star State. Without question, the absolute best brisket and sausage I’ve ever put in my mouth came from there. Sure, I can get brisket here, but I’ve yet to find anyone that does it as well as they can do it.
The question then was whether or not the Carolina pork was so much better than the typical pulled pork you can get almost anywhere. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. The pork was indeed, sooooo tasty. Was it best I’d ever had, though? I still don’t know; I think I might need to make another trip for more samples. What I can say with absolute certainty, though, is that the sauces I tasted today were without question the best tasting vinegar-based ones I’d ever tried. I briefly contemplated drinking directly from the squeeze bottle, but decided my colleagues would likely prefer I didn’t.
The other thing that really made me happy about the experience was the place itself. It was a little hole-in-wall with aging tables, what seemed like reclaimed elementary school chairs, a dingy white tile floor, and a line of humanity around the whole inside of the place leading to the order counter. That’s exactly what a good barbecue joint is supposed to be like. Show me a place with fancy wait service and/or tablecloths and I’ll be sure they spent more time thinking about the décor or their marketing than the smoking meat. No sir, in my book, the best barbecue comes from the little shack that may or may not be days away from collapsing under its own weight.
Which is exactly how I felt when I stumbled out of the place after lunch, heavily laden with a picnic plate full of pork, beans, and mac-and-cheese.
Yep, it was a pretty darn good trip, indeed.