With its fervent aficionados, traditions, and wildly varying regional styles--each with its passionate advocates--barbecue is much more than a way of cooking meat: It's a cultural ritual. A history as entertaining as it is informative, this book is the first to explore American barbecue's regional roots. Nationally renowned food commentator Mike Witzel takes readers on an eye-opening (and mouth-watering) tour of the histories, techniques, culture, competitions, traditional side dishes, and classic hot spots associated with barbecue's four major regionally based styles. With hundreds of photographs and illustrations, print ads, signage, and more, this account offers a rich picture of American barbecue in Texas, North Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City (home to at least 100 barbecue restaurants and the world's largest annual barbeque contest). Pork or beef, sweet or spicy, marinated or rubbed, basted or slathered in sauce, cooked slowly or seared, over coal or wood chips, here are the styles from which all American barbecue is derived, in all their rich flavor and folklore. For those who wish to do further research, the book provides a listing of top barbecue joints in all 50 states.