The Great Divide: Eastern Vs. Western NC Barbecue

The Great Divide: Eastern Vs. Western NC Barbecue

Vinegar-based or tomato-based?
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Across America, especially in the South, barbecue is a dietary staple of game day, family reunions and Sunday dinner. Small town barbecue joints, annual church "Pig Pickin's" and washing down your barbecue sandwich with an ice cold sweet tea while tailgating are all integral to life in the American South. Barbecue is familiar and classic, a comfort food, but despite this it's not as simple as it seems.

Barbecue varies from state to state and even regionally within states. Being raised in North Carolina has made me quite sensitive to these variations. From the day I learned to chew food, I was fed Barbecue and repeatedly lectured on the two varieties of this seemingly sacred pork product. I was taught that there is Eastern North Carolina barbecue and Western North Carolina barbecue. After a while, I began to notice that people from the Eastern and Western parts of the state both seemed fiercely proud of their variety of Barbecue. My family, being from the East, holds a unwavering preference for Eastern style. Both the East and the West claim their barbecue is undoubtably the best. While interviewing him for this article, my Grandfather perfectly exemplified this by simply stating, "If it's from the east, it tastes good, if it's from the west, it tastes bad." I have always found this age old competition fascinating. Having tried both types of barbecue, and finding them both delicious, I was inspired to do some research in order to find out which variety was truly the best.

To conduct my research I consulted my Great Aunt and Uncle, Dr. Frank Dawkins and Dr. Karen Dawkins, who recently became certified BBQ judges for the North Carolina Barbecue Society. (The fact that there is an entire society devoted to Barbecue demonstrates just how seriously North Carolinians take their BBQ.) The first thing I asked them was to explain the difference between Eastern and Western style.

They explained that Eastern style BBQ (pictured below) is made with a vinegar-based sauce that usually also includes sugar and red pepper. This variety is made with meat from many different areas of the pig.

Then they explained that Western-style BBQ (pictured below), also called Lexington style, is also made with a vinegar based sauce but that sauce includes a tomato or ketchup component. Western BBQ is usually sweeter, redder in color, and made only with pork shoulder.

After learning the difference between the two types of NC barbecue, I asked them as certified Barbecue Judges how they evaluate the quality of BBQ. They told me that BBQ judging is pretty subjective but overall BBQ is judged on three things: taste, tenderness, and appearance. I then proceeded to ask them the big question, Which is better, Eastern style BBQ or Western style BBQ? Their answer was that there is no real way of telling. They said because people seem to favor the barbecue from their hometown or region, Eastern style wins in the East, and Western style wins in the West, because the judges for competitions in the East are usually from the East, and judges for competitions in the West are usually from the West. I appreciated the honesty of this answer, but I realized I had to deem my research inconclusive.

It was difficult to accept that I will never know which style of barbecue is truly the best, but at least I am now very educated about regional pork flavors. My hope is that one day the people of North Carolina will accept that all BBQ is delectable and be united by their love of pork.

Cover Image Credit: Epicurious

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​21 Things You Need To Do The Year You Turn 21

Cheers to twenty-fun!
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There’s a reason people call 21 "twenty-fun." This is one of those years that has the potential to beat all others. All you need are some great friends, a spirit hungry for adventure, and this list of 21 crucial things to fill your year with.

1. Get carded as often as possible.

There’s pretty much no better feeling than when you’re finally 21 and you can order drinks with no fear of being turned down.

2. Tell people what you want with #NoRagrets.

This year is no longer the year to hold in your thoughts out of fear that you don’t deserve what you want. Decide on your dreams (life, career, whatever) and shout them from the rooftops.

3. Find your “Go to Hell” outfit.

You know the one – that outfit you feel so good in that you could tell literally anyone to “go to hell” without blinking an eye. Yep. Buy it. Own it. Kill it.

4. Experience more than normal.

Look at life through someone else’s eyes, visit another country, practice empathy. There’s more to life than black and white. Just experience a little more than your normal. You’ll be a better person for it.

5. Kill the LinkedIn game.

It’s cool to be professional AF.

6. Go on a few dates.

With your significant other, mom, dad, best friends, that stranger you’ve been crushing on, yourself.

7. Learn how to be comfortable with uncomfortable.

Not everything is going to be your cup of tea and not everyone is going to be exactly like you. Learn to appreciate everyone’s differences and your days will get a little brighter.

8. Find a quality genre of music and stick with it.

Top 40 is cool and all, but there are so many genres out there so don’t be afraid to grow your musical palette.

9. Treat yo-damn-self.

To a nice meal out. To those new shoes. To that second Starbucks. To that big piece of cake. To that crazy concert. Self-love is important, too.

10. Strike up conversations with as many strangers as you can.

You never know who you could meet if you just take a second to talk to the person in line in front of you or walking the same way as you. This is the age to form good networking habits.

11. Explain why your license isn’t flipped the ‘right’ way.

Yes, you’re really 21. You just haven’t gotten your new flipped ID yet.

12. Make your forever friends.

What’s life without your forever friends?

13. Gym so hard.

Hit up the gym and eat some spinach every once in a while. It’s good for ya.

14. Buy your parents drinks.

Imagine how funny (or scaring) it’ll be hearing your dad tell the hot bartender some of his ‘high-quality’ dad jokes.

15. Splurge a little money.

Like I said before, treat yo-damn-self.

16. Save a little money.

But, treat yo-damn-self within reason. Your future self will thank you.

17. Always give a solid tip at restaurants.

A nice tip can go a long way… and I mean the monetary kind.

18. Perfect your Insta game.

Juno? Ludwig? Valencia? Choose your favorite filter and throw it over everything. Whether it be your #foodie lunch or your beach pics, find your ~aesthetic~ and stick with it.

19. Make sure your jerk radar is properly calibrated.

This will get you so far in life and save you so much wasted time.

20. Cross a few things off your bucket list.

If you don’t have a bucket list, now’s the time to make one and start checking things off one-by-one. You’ll never realize how much you’ve really done until you see a big list with a bunch of marks through it.

21. Live. A lot.

Okay, so maybe 9+10 is not 21 (#RIPVine), but this is a huge year for you. This might be your last big birthday before the big 5-0 so make sure you’re always living every moment to the fullest.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren LeBouef

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9 Ways To Adopt A Vegan Diet And Actually Stick With It This Time

What helped me transition into veganism so seamlessly was the fact that I cut out certain foods when I felt ready.

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Whether it be for ethical, health, or environmental reasons more and more people each day are converting to a vegan lifestyle. But, going in blind and expecting to become an expert overnight on how to maintain a proper vegan diet is completely unrealistic, which is why a lot of people end up falling off the wagon completely.

I know after watching slaughterhouse videos or reading about all of the carcinogens and antibiotics found in meat and dairy or watching documentaries about the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture that it's tempting to go vegan on the spot. For the record, veganism is a plant-based diet that eliminates the consumption of all animal products including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, and gelatin (essentially crushed up animal bones/ cartilage commonly found in marshmallows and gummy candies). So, yeah, going vegan cold-turkey (no pun intended) is not going to be easy. If you think you're up for the challenge, great, but I believe gradually eliminating certain foods from your diet and reading up about your new nutritional needs are much more effective strategies in order to stay vegan long term.

Going vegan was one of the best choices I've ever made, so hopefully, these next few tips and tricks are able to help out anyone looking to try a new diet that is both healthy AND delicious!

1. Gradually eliminate certain non-vegan foods

It's hard to give up some of your all-time favorite foods, trust me, I know. What helped me transition into veganism so seamlessly was the fact that I cut out certain foods when I felt ready. I went pescatarian (no meat except fish) before I went vegetarian and it took me two and a half years of vegetarianism before I felt ready to become fully vegan. Take your time and do things at your own pace. If you rush this process, it's tempting to just revert back to an omnivorous diet because you made too big of an adjustment too quickly.

2. Find vegan replacements

While I was vegetarian I ended up doing a lot of research and trying out a lot of vegan replacements for non-vegan foods, so that when I went fully vegan I already knew what to reach for. Turns out you don't have to give up your burgers, chicken nuggets, or scrambled eggs anytime soon. It's a process of trial and error and not every product you try from your supermarket's vegan section is going to be amazing, but there are some amazing brands and products out there that taste even better than their non-vegan counterparts. My personal favorites include the entire Gardein line, Quorn's vegan line (their spicy "chicken" patties are my all time favorite), Amy's vegan soups and burritos, Annie's fruit snacks, Kite Hill's yogurts, and any brand of non-dairy ice cream (really, I've never met a vegan ice cream I didn't absolutely love).

3. Go to local vegan restaurants

Besides having an entire delicious menu of foods you are able to choose from as a vegan, vegan restaurants (or restaurants with extensive vegan menus) also are great ways to get inspiration for vegan recipes you can make at home. Most vegan restaurants don't serve meals that are overly complicated to make and they are always coming up with creative new ways to prepare plant-based meals.

4. Read menus ahead of time

If you are planning to go out with your non-vegan friends for a bite to eat, check out the menu of the restaurant you are going to or call ahead of time to make sure there's something on the menu that you are able to eat. The vast majority of restaurants these days have at least a couple of vegan options, and if not, they are almost certainly willing to accommodate your needs to the best of their abilities, just be sure to check first. As a college student, this also includes checking out your dining halls for vegan options and getting in touch with a school nutritionist if you're not seeing any vegan options. If you're really in a bind, one of my favorite apps of all time is called Happy Cow and it essentially alerts you of restaurants that have vegan options within a 25-mile radius of your location so that everyone in your friend group is able to get food that satisfies them no matter where you are.

5. Don't get upset if you mess up

Every single vegan has accidentally eaten something containing animal products at some point or other. If you realize that you ate something non-vegan by mistake, don't beat yourself up over it. It happens to everyone and it doesn't make you somehow any less of a vegan.

6. Learn how to cook

Honestly, this is a tip that any young person should pick up. Sure, convenience meals and frozen dinners are necessary every once in a while (and, yes, plenty of great ready-made vegan meals do exist), but they're downright unhealthy and are high in fat and sodium. Frozen dinners are also ridiculously expensive. Look up recipes online or buy a vegan cookbook. You would be amazed at all the ways fruits, vegetables, grains, starches, legumes, and fungi can be combined to make meals and snacks that both taste good and are good for you.

7. Make sure you're eating enough

This is probably the number one biggest problem new vegans struggle with. Literally, in every single YouTube video where people try to go vegan, they complain about "being hungry" or "feeling lethargic," and that's simply because they aren't eating enough. Meat and dairy are far more calorically dense than fruits and veggies, so you need to eat more to make sure you're taking in enough calories. Incorporate more grains, starches, and beans into your diet so that you feel full after eating and stay satisfied until your next meal. Obviously, if you have any concerns, speak to a certified nutritionist about your diet to make sure you are eating enough and are getting enough nutrients out of the food you are eating.

8. Get enough vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins for you to have in your body as it helps you absorb other vitamins and minerals, especially iron. B12 also prevents certain types of anemia which can leave your body feeling weak and tired. B12 is typically found in animal products as bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of animals produce it. Because of modern farming practices, B12 is hard to come by produce, and thus is difficult to obtain through a vegan diet. Good sources of B12 for vegans include nutritional yeast (a great substitute for Parmesan cheese because of its cheesy flavor), some plant milks, some soy products, and some breakfast cereals. If you're still worried about your B12 intake, talk to your doctor about possibly taking B12 supplements or multivitamins containing B12.

9. Start reading food labels

Seriously, this is something everyone should do anyway because it's good to know what exactly you're fueling your body with. Reading nutrition facts ensures you know if you're getting enough calories and vitamins and reading ingredient lists ensures you know whether or not a product is vegan or not. Milk and eggs have to be listed in bold at the bottom of ingredient lists as they are common allergens, but if you suspect a product may contain traces of meat or gelatin, you may have to read through the ingredients a little closer. On the flip side, you would also be surprised at the number of snacks that are actually accidentally vegan as well, so don't rule out your favorite treats before reading the label!

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