It's a secret rub, a special sauce, and hours in the smoker that give this Carolina-style barbeque from Peckinpah the grilling kudos it deserves

When we are in need of fortification, we all have our go-to food and drink: hot mushroom barley soup on a snowy day; a crisp gin and tonic during the sweaty heat of summer.

But when we slide into Vancouver winter weather — no sun for six months, damp socks, and a propensity for tears — the perfect fortification is Southern food. And it's not just about the taste, it's also about the vision: food prepared in a place so hot and different from ours it's a welcome change.

Styles of Southern Food

Canadians generally have misconceptions about Southern cuisine. We tend to think it's fatty and beige without a lot of nutrition. However, Southern food is influenced by so many different cultures it's anything but: English, Scottish, Irish, German, French, Native American, African American, Caribbean and Spanish, to name a few.

Because the region is so large, it encompasses several different styles of cuisine too: Tidewater, Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, Lowcountry, and Floribbean are some notable examples. And although we may assume it's all about fried chicken and biscuits, Southerners use squash, tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, collards, fish, shrimp, oysters, pork, beef, rice, and okra to make interesting, healthy meals rich in flavour. But you don't get more flavourful than barbeque.

If you want to cut through the chill of a West Coast winter, there is no better way than a plate of hot, well-marinated barbeque. It's not just the slow-cook process of the meat, making it fall-off-the-bone tender and meltingly rich on the tongue, it's the marinades. Since every Southern state has its own way of marinating and smoking barbecue, you can literally eat your way across the South and never have the same meal twice (which is, in fact, a dream of mine).

Gastown's Barbeque Restaurant: Peckinpah


Peckinpah in Gastown serves up traditional eastern North Carolina-style barbeque (Image: Jessica Brunt)

Peckinpah, a Carolina BBQ joint on Water Street in Gastown, is the latest to offer this soul-soothing cuisine to Vancouverites. I had a chat with Chef Bryan Gileo about Peckinpah's philosophy. These guys are about tradition, which in a city known for it's fusion cuisine and West Coast approach, is a unique departure. Peckinpah adheres to the most traditional and oldest style of barbecue in the Southern USA: eastern North Carolina.

The meat is dry rubbed and cooked over low heat for long periods of time. It's served dry with your choice of sauces: chili vinegar and a sweet, mild sauce are the mains, but others such as honey bourbon, jalapeno mayo, and a locally prepared spicy sauce are available by request - Peckinpah's concession to locals not familiar with "dry" Southern barbecue.

I'm a huge fan of eating traditional food, well, traditionally, and North Carolinians eat barbecue dry with a little chili vinegar. While not what I'm used to, the experience is delicious. The herbs and the quality of the cuts are brought out by the smoking, giving the different meats a tender, almost creamy quality. To give myself the full experience I tried the table sauces, and preferred the chili vinegar to the milder sauce, although the milder sauce did offer a certain succulence,  especially to the brisket.

Types of Barbeque

Peckinpah offers four main types of smoked barbecue, and I tried them all: pulled pork, beef brisket, beef short rib, and pork ribs. It also offers a jalapeno pork sausage with a dose of pepper just strong enough to wake up your taste buds, and the traditional sides such as cornbread, collards, creamed corn, beans and chili. What I particularly liked about the brisket was that it made me feel like Fred Flintstone with that giant bone. And really, who wouldn't feel warmer just looking at this feast?

I could barely put a dent in it, which is saying something because I am a girl who can eat. And it was impressive, delicious, and satisfying. Instead of locking myself inside this winter, I'm going to spend it sitting in the window at Peckinpah, with a giant brisket bone in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other, watching the snow come down (or, let's face it, watching the rain come down).

Visit Peckinpah at 2 Water Street  Vancouver, BC; 604-681-5411