I Like Big Butts … and I Cannot Lie

I Like Big Butts … And I Cannot Lie

By Sheryl McAlister, a writer based in South Carolina

Every Christmas Eve as far back as I can remember, we had BBQ as the centerpiece of our “Night before Christmas” meal. For those unenlightened, the BBQ process starts long before the eating begins, usually takes days and lots of patience before the meat is ready to eat. The slow cooking process can be an overnight butt basting party if you let it. Pulling the meat off the bones, chopping it up and preparing it for its special sauce, however, can get messy and ain’t much fun.

Me? I like my BBQ chopped, on a bun with sauce – sometimes ketchup based. Sometimes mustard based. And I am not a big fan of the end to end process (no pun intended) of getting to that point.

But there I was in my kitchen. I had a kitchen towel over my left shoulder. I was holding my best carving knife and giant fork. I had my Boston Butt on the biggest cutting board I could find, and I began to slice away. Had that butt been a London Broil, it would have been a nice and tidy job. But it didn’t work out that way.

Then I remembered. This is not a job for the easily queasy. There are no utensils involved if you do it the right way: grab a hunk of meat and bone and dig in, pulling every piece of pork off every conceivable place a piece of meat might be. Discarding the fat, the bones, and the gooey stuff that doesn’t even look like a body part. You really have to to dig in and dig deep.

Up to my elbows in pork remains, all of a sudden I died laughing. I was my Dad on Christmas Eve. Towel over my shoulder, big cutting board and knife, and a huge slab of pork.

Now, BBQ around these parts is serious business. First of all, here it’s a noun – not a verb. Sauces can vary depending on where you live and how you roll. And the purists will defend which is better as strongly as they declare their political or religious affiliations. You do not want to be on the wrong side of a BBQ sauce fight. Mustard based. Tomato based. Vinegar sauce. White sauce. My favorite is a combination of mustard and tomato. My Dad’s favorite was vinegar-based.

The joke in my family was that while we loved Dad’s BBQ, we hated the vinegar sauce. The more we hated it, the more he added to the cue. I remember the smell like it was yesterday, emanating from his workbench in my parents’ garage. The big yellow plastic gloves he wore when he mixed the special sauce. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t realize I would miss that smell so much.

Tonight I did. As I dug deep for all the meat I could pull off the bones of that Boston Butt, I found myself searching for that familiar, vinegary smell. But, of course, it never came. The last bag of Dad’s BBQ I had in my freezer I’d served to my Supper Club two years after Dad died. I knew I had to serve it to a group of friends who would appreciate its significance. I saved the empty baggie with the last of the sweet vinegar smell in my freezer for another few months. And then the smell was gone.

I doubt I can ever figure out how to make Dad’s special vinegar sauce for one reason. I still hate vinegar. But when I opened my freezer tonight and saw 5 baggies of freshly chopped Carolina BBQ with the date April 2018 written in black Sharpie, I had to giggle.

I knew he was all around me.


©Copyright Sheryl McAlister 2018.

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  1. Vickie McAlister April 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Sheryl Enjoyed so much! Reminded me of your granddad too. I remembered him cutting up the barbecue with a towel for an apron. He loved vinegar based sauce and I guess passed that onto your dad. Thanks for sharing the sweet memories of your dad. Love to you and the family, Vickie

    On Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 3:30 PM OldBroad & NewTrix wrote:

    > Sheryl McAlister posted: “I Like Big Butts … And I Cannot Lie By Sheryl > McAlister, a writer based in South Carolina Every Christmas Eve as far back > as I can remember, we had BBQ as the centerpiece of our “Night before > Christmas” meal. For those unenlightened, the BBQ process start” >


    1. Thanks so much, Vickie, for commenting and following! Love to you all.


  2. Catherine Collier-Sain April 8, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Cheryl. Have not seen you in years. Go Panthers. I married a good ol’ country boy. Who loves barbque and has lots of the teens around our small town get elbow deep in pulling pork on a regular basis. Hope they will all remember this time with him as fondly as you have those days with your dad. Catherine Collier-Sain


    1. Hey Catherine!! So great to see you and have missed you the past few seasons in Row 4! Glad to hear about your own pig pickin’ memories!! And so glad to hear from you.


  3. Remember well that the prep was an all-night affair that involved extended family and employees in your grandfather’s day. Good eating! Thanks for sharing. Love to all!


    1. Thanks, Anne! Good to see Jeannie the other day.


  4. MARSI MCALISTER April 8, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Great article!! I an still smell the BBQ even though I did not eat BBQ. I love the ending. I also love the fact that he worked so hard cooking the BBQ for family and friends. oxoxox


    1. And thanks to the swim team for selling them!!


  5. Enjoyed reading about your family bbq tradition, Sheryl. Funny how a certain smell or taste can take us right back to another time and place. I’d side with your Dad on the preference for vinegar base though I love mustard and tomato, too. A mixture of the three on a good pile of pulled pork is mighty tasty, too. Mama always said that our tastes change every seven years so give yourself a few more and you, too, might enjoy the taste of that vinegar sauce! Thanks for sharing your story. Hope our paths cross soon!


    1. Good to hear from you Judy. Would be great to see you soon!


  6. Jeannie Dailey April 8, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Sheryl when my daddy would come to my house to be withbus on Christmas many times he would bring yalls bar b que. Good times!
    Love you all & your writings


    1. My Dad sure loved your Dad, and so did I. Love to you all.


  7. I think I can smell it from here! He would like it too. I am such a chicken that I love LITTLE PIGS and love to pick at the pig in the glass case some weekends. I have never had the urge to dig into the Boston Butt!

    You are soooo brave! Kudos to you!


    1. Hi Polly!!! Hope you’re doing well and good to hear from you!


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