My husband went to one of our favorite barbecue places and picked up supper for us.
He came home with a sampler platter containing ribs, pulled pork, chicken, slaw, Brunswick stew, bread, chips and some extra ribs. We dug in, ate up and licked our fingers. Good eating with leftovers for the next day.

Now barbecue is an interesting thing: folks have definite opinions on what it is, how it is cooked, sauced and so on.

In some parts of the world when you say you are going to have a barbecue, you are understood to mean that you are going to be cooking something, usually meat, on a grill.

If you say you’re going to have barbecue, that shifts the meaning to something else again.

Depending on where you live and what you prefer, having barbecue could mean cooking or eating pork, beef, chicken or goat. And various parts of those animals might be used: brisket, ribs, shoulders, wings, burnt ends and more.

Also depending on where you live or grew up, that meat could be embellished in various ways: tomato-based sauce, mustard-based sauce, vinegar-based sauce, dry-rubbed with herbs or spices, marinated, basted and the list continues.

Brunswick stew brings in another whole range of options for ingredients and preferences.

One person’s view of the “best” can differ sharply from his or her best friend’s. And the ubiquitous slaw that often accompanies barbecue also has its variety of recipes and partialities.

Cooking the barbecue in sundry ways has proponents, too. In addition to the many options for grills, their accouterments, fuels and manners of cooking that are available for use in private homes, there are several commercial choices.

Some barbecue providers may cook over a slow-burning fire with a preferred wood or coals. Others have enormous stainless steel cookers that are portable and can be easily trailered to fairs and festivals.

Specialty ovens in stationary restaurants are featured drawing cards for their customers.

In our town, the distinctive aroma of barbecue wafts through the air, letting everyone know that good eating is just around the corner.

Or, in our case, around several corners, and aficionados of this or that restaurant will proclaim, loudly, their fondness for their favorite place and its stew, ribs or pulled pork or…

Trying to convince someone from Kansas that Memphis barbecue is more “authentic,” or someone from North Carolina that tomato-based sauce trumps their mustard-based one and you will soon have quite a contretemps.

To someone who has never tried barbecued goat, the dish sounds unappetizing and strange.

Texas brisket cooks are adamant that their style is without question, by far, the best. Those who prefer slow wood-fired cooking turn their noses up at stainless steel “contraptions” that are new-fangled shortcuts.

Sound familiar? Substitute “faith” for “barbecue,” and go from there.

SaraPowell is on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a freelance writer and former moderator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. She and her husband, Bill, live in Hartwell, Ga. Visit her website at

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