Big on the Pig

Joseph Haynes’ new book stakes a claim for Virginia barbecue. 

The cover of Virginia Barbecue: A History and author Joseph R. Haynes. 

Photos courtesy of Arcadia Publishing and History Press 

Author Joseph R. Haynes is poised to stoke the fires (and potentially the ires) of barbecue connoisseurs throughout the South with the publication last week of his new book, Virginia Barbecue: A History (The History Press, 2016).

In it, the competition barbecue cook and certified master barbecue judge from Fredericksburg says that barbecue began in Virginia, and then spread to points further south and west. Over 286 well-researched pages, the book delves into the 400-year history of barbecue, claiming that the beloved method of southern cooking that originated in Virginia dates back to European colonists and Powhatan tribes and was later perfected by enslaved African-Americans.

“In order to understand how southern barbecue first developed in Virginia, we must focus on interactions between Europeans, Native Americans, Africans and African Americans who lived together in early 17th-century Virginia. Together, they gave us cornbread, Virginia hoecake, Virginia smoked ham and Virginia barbecue,” Haynes writes. “Just as Virginia hospitality would spread to become southern hospitality and Virginia smoked ham would spread to become country ham, so would Virginia barbecue spread throughout the South to become Southern barbecue.”  

Haynes says Virginia-style barbecue exists in four main styles: “The tangy sauces of Southside Virginia, the spiced sauces of Central Virginia, the herbaceous vinegar-based sauces of the Shenandoah Valley and the sweeter, less tangy barbecue sauces of Northern Virginia.

“All of them exhibit the down-home flavors of Virginia’s culinary heritage,” Haynes says.

Favorites around the state like Benny’s Barbecue in Richmond, BBQ Jamboree in Fredericksburg, Paulie’s Pig Out in Afton and the Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville are featured in a chapter titled “Authentic Barbecue Recipes,” as are recipes for Virginia-style barbecue sauces and rubs with regional flair. Virginia mountain-style barbecue sauce, for example, which Haynes dubs “Thin Virginia Red,” includes celery salt, tomato juice and a dash of poultry seasoning.

Haynes is not shy about staking his claim for Virginia ‘cue, even writing that our vinegar-based sauce tradition is older than North Carolina’s—a contention with which we in the Old Dominion are certainly proud to concur, but suspect might find objection from our Southern neighbors.

Read more from Haynes on his blog, Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue,  

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum