It’s the most purely American food-and that’s maybe the
only thing about it everyone agrees on


You can’t get good barbecue in Paris, London, or Hong Kong, but you can get 18 varieties in Lexington, North Carolina, and 7 in Piano, Texas. Barbecue is the all-American food, particularly south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But American barbecue—whether it’s known as barbecue, BBQ, bar-b-q, ’cue, or just Q—is more than a way of cooking: It’s myth, folklore, and American history; it’s politics (like the time Texas Gov. W.

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The woman whose great-grandfather introduced pastrami to the New World explores an American institution that is as hard to define as it is easy to recognize


The great immigration of the late-nineteenth century brought unheard-of things to America: Tin Pan Alley, Bakelite, the first air-conditioned hat. And thanks to Sussman Volk, pastrami. In 1887, a not-great year for Jews in Vilna, my great-grandfather packed up his wife and seven children and headed for New York. He had nine fingers, having shot one off to avoid the Russian draft.

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