Dear Columbus, GA Chamber of Commerce,

I have serious doubts that you even exist.

Columbus might be the largest town, dare I say city, in western Georgia, just across the river from Alabama, but in all other respects it might as well be a rest stop on the highway. I was in your town, dare I say city for two very long hours. I did not find a downtown of any sort. I found no neighborhoods or businesses, no commerce to speak of. Your job must either be very difficult or very dull.

I did find a civil war graveyard, a rail yard, plenty of painfully normal houses, a large throughway packed very full with cars. I wondered aloud where these people might be driving to or from. Alabama? Walmart? Is this the center of America?

I also found Smokey Pig Barbecue, or rather, it found me from the pages of a Lonely Planet guide dedicated to the cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dear Asheville, NC, Chamber of Commerce,

I am writing to you today because I believe you have your priorities mixed up. I recently spent time in your fair town, and while I have plenty of fine things to say about your hippie sensibilities, the rugged beauty of your mountains, and your love for locally-sourced food and beer, I feel I must remind you that you are a proud city of the South, and not a facsimile of Burlington, Vermont.

Why do I bring this up? How could I question the unmissable southern-pride of any North Carolinian? Here, though, it’s not unmissable, on the contrary it’s quite missable. You do pronounce “Appalachian” with a long third a, not a short one. I’ll give you that.

I’ll cut to the chase. A major mainstay of Southern culture, the barbecue pit, takes many forms. In tiny, backwater towns, the best barbeque comes from nondescript shacks, gas stations, backyards. In large centers of commerce, like Asheville, the pit with the best ‘que is a meeting place, a point where Hospitality is exercised, a cultural agora in any Southern city.

And you hide 12 Bones Smokehouse all the way out in the the”River Arts District”, amid vacant buildings and hipster enclaves.
Read the rest of this entry »