cover image Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country

Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country

Lolis Eric Elie / Author, Frank Stewart / Photographer Farrar

While traveling with the Wynton Marsalis Band, Elie as road manager, Stewart as the photographer for Marsalis's book, Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, the authors consumed so much barbecue, they decided to go off on their own and write a historical, cultural and culinary study of this type of cooking. Driving through the Midwest and the South in their 1981 Volvo, with a tape of Howlin' Wolf's ""Smokestack Lighting"" for company, they visited nearly 50 barbecue restaurants, talking to cooks, taking pictures and evaluating the food, most of which was undistinguished. The book abounds in local color and graphic details of barbecue preparations; the description of how cows' heads are cleaned at one place in Brownsville, Texas, is particularly grisly. Stewart's photographs include shots of many of the people they interviewed as well as studies of severed hogs' heads and intestines. Some of this is interesting, but a little barbecue research, like barbecue itself, goes a long way. Recipes, a barbecue bibliography and the addresses and phone numbers of the restaurants they visited are included. (May) FYI: Elie is now a columnist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.