Kosher barbecue competitions started and first proliferated below the Mason-Dixon Line, but recently, Yankees are starting to hone in on the action – there’s a festival on Long Island, and a new one will launch in New Jersey next year.
It’s raising some eyebrows down in Dixieland.
“I don’t think the North can compete with the South, that’s for sure! We live and breathe barbecue down here,” said Jacob Halpern, one of the organizers for the When Pigs Fly Kosher BBQ Cook-off and Festival in Birmingham, AL, which he started five years ago as a fundraiser for his synagogue, Temple Beth-El.
Theories abound, north and south, about why and how kosher barbecue has become so popular, but most practitioners agree on a few basic principles: that their local product is the best, that it’s all about cooking low and slow and that cooking shows like BBQ Pitmasters are fueling the fire.
“Memphis is known for its barbecue and kosher is no different,” said Eric Mogy, one of the co-chairmen of the Anshe Sephard-Beth El Emeth (ASBEE) Kosher BBQ Contest in Tennessee, who says kosher barbecue competition started in his city about 25 years ago.
Of course, the Yankees beg to differ.
“I believe the North can go rib to rib with the competitions from the South,” said Steve Schneiderman of the New Jersey Kosher BBQ Championship, sponsored by the Pine Brook Jewish Center, which will start next year.
In the end, Jewish peoplehood and values tend to temper the heat of these rivalries.
Halpern has hosted groups from Long Island, St. Louis, and Las Vegas to show them what makes a great festival.
ASBEE’s annual March event, he said, has turned into a multiethnic festival, with basketball tournaments and art exhibits. Last year, a Muslim team competed for the first time.
The Long Island competition, which drew a crowd of about 3,000 in June, raises money for local food banks.
For Rabbi Mendel Segal, an organizer of the Kansas City VAAD BBQ Festival, the festival is a chance to do some kashrut education, and the proceeds help make kosher supervision more widely available.
Then again: “We have people that know about barbecue and infrastructure who are drooling over the fact of finally being able to get kosher barbecue, and non-kosher people love the novelty of it. We want to be as close as we possibly can to the real deal, which Kansas City is,” he said.
Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, TX who enjoys cooking, theme parties and cowboys. She challenges herself to put a spin on her Bubbe’s traditional Jewish recipes and blogs about her endeavors at What Jew Wanna Eat. Her work has been featured on Bon Appetit, Daily Candy, The Today Show blog and she also has a monthly column in .The Jewish Outlook. You can follow her on Twitter,Pinterest and Facebook and watch her cooking videos on Google+.
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