These days, it seems like more and more fanatics are joining Belinda Carlisle in the belief that heaven is indeed a place on Earth. To us, it smells of burning oak, cold beer, and fatty brisket. To many, barbecue is like a religion, so much so that barbecue worship is a lot like going to church. Still a non-believer? Here are 11 reasons barbecue is like church, but with better bread. So it was written, so it was smoked.
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Jews have the Wailing Wall, Muslims have Mecca, Brisketites have places like Louie Mueller Barbecue. Eaters flock from far and wide to visit esteemed halls of smoke and leave in a blissful meat haze.
2. Wood, fire, and brimstone are key
Just like in a Christian church, you're likely to see crosses of wood outside any self-respecting barbecue joints. And all that fire and brimstone really help drive the important stuff -- the flavor -- home.
3. At the highest levels, things can become very secretive
Although both pitmasters and priests often preach total transparency, you're eventually going to hit a locked door behind which lies each institution's secret spices.
4. They can both tear families apart
There might not be any wars waged over barbecue, but there are plenty of serious feuds.
5. Bread is usually free
Communion wafers for some, cheap white bread to sponge up sauce for others.
6. You can drink alcohol, but don't go overboard
Just like you're not supposed to fill up on the blood of Christ, barbecue fanatics know that beer should be a side dish and not a main course.
7. Priests and pitmasters are in it for life
Priests are also agreeing tonot dotheproverbial it for life, so they've got it way worse (we're talking sex stuff!), but just as you can't have one foot in the clergy, there are no part-time pitmasters. It's more than a job: it's a vocation that dictates most everything else in your life.
8. Reading the gospel is highly encouraged, but open to interpretation
With the wealth of cookbooks available these days, odds are you're getting your knowledge from one of the many tomes of Q lore. Just like with the Bible, there are a million ways to read these books, but no matter how you interpret, they offer a solid foundation for leading a good life/brisket.
Protestants and Catholics, Texans and whatever the hell you call people from Tennessee; there are serious distinctions in schools of thought in the realms of religion and barbecue. Some worship at the temple of the pig (Tennessee), while others won't even touch swine (Texans, Muslims).
10. You're taught to respect your elders
Although it isn't written in stone, there are few food traditions as reverent of older generations as barbecue.
11. Animal sacrifice is routine
Sacrificial lamb can really benefit from a nice mesquite smoke.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He more often associates low and slow heat with heaven rather than hell. Follow him to angelic smoked meats at @Dannosphere.