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Going hog wild over food (Bob Paslay)

A little controversy broke out in the newsroom recently over banana sandwiches. Hey, you fight over what you want to fight over and we'll fight over the little things.

The dispute centered first around how to cut the bananas. Since you won't be asked to vote, I'll tell you which side I choose. I slice the bananas in little rounds, piling them on top of each other. Others favored cutting the banana the long way.

Then there was the spread. I favor mayonnaise. Some prefer Miracle Whip and others peanut butter.

We are all creatures of how we were raised. What we do seems perfectly normal and everything else sounds just plain weird.

I had redneck neighbors as a little kid. They crumbled up hot cornbread and ate it in a glass of "sweet milk." But I, coming to this concept decades later, favor crumbling mine in really cold buttermilk.

Take for example Elvis' banana sandwiches. He favored peanut butter and then fried the sandwich in a pan with butter. No recipe mentions how he cut the bananas. I say "he" but we all know Elvis didn't do anything for himself.

The "veganfood" website mentioned that Elvis' mom, Gladys, used to make him these sandwiches. He once ate nothing but them for seven weeks and he always ate this sandwich with a knife and fork.

Now get this banana sandwich recipe on a website on Helen's British Cooking Site that is about as weird as I have heard.

Slice the bananas and dip the slices in lemon juice. Mix this with two ounces of crumbled Stilton cheese and two sliced onions. Take this mixture and spread it on granary bread and it makes two sandwiches.

Then there is the never-ending controversy over barbecue. First, I can't eat barbecue without good slaw. A colleague loves slaw but prefers it on the side, not on the sandwich.

I favor the tomato-based sauce, but occasionally eat the mustard-based. Some only eat mustard-based. In South Carolina, sliced barbecue was nearly non-existent and so I favor mine chopped.

On this July 4th while waiting on your dad or hubby to finish grilling out, try a little bit of barbecue trivia.

What does the word mean? An Internet history of barbecue lists a few options. One says it is a derivative of the West Indies word "Barbacoa," a slow method of cooking meat over coals. The Oxford English Dictionary traces it to Haiti and some say it is French from the phrase "barbe a queue" which means from head to tail.

However it came to be known, a lot is clearer about the origins of barbecue itself. Because pigs were easy to raise and maintain, Southerners in the pre-Civil War era ate five pounds of pork for every pound of beef, according to the History of Barbecue website.

A saying when I was growing up is that Southerners use every part of the hog but the squeal.

Hog slaughtering in the South became a time of celebration in the 1800s and neighbors gathered together. Out of this came our tradition of barbecues.

When I was a teen, summer meant stump meetings and giant overflowing plates of barbecue, slaw, sweet pickles and of course slices of white loaf bread. Politicians would give speeches and our parents would listen intently as we would eat and drink glass after glass of tea (there was no such thing as sweet tea back then because there was no such thing as unsweetened tea.)

Don't ask me if barbecue is my favorite food because food, unlike movies and books, should never be ranked, just gobbled up.

I love barbecue and will brake for it in a second, no matter whether it is a giant black kettle over an open fire in a yard of a tin-roofed shack or a giant chain. But I once had a mind over stomach decision to make and opted for the mind, which meant I surrendered some really good barbecue.

I was covering the legislature in South Carolina and Maurice Bessinger kept running coupons in the paper for a heaping plateful of his barbecue at a bargain. For those unfamiliar with Bessinger, he was a Lester Maddox-type bigot who refused to serve blacks at his Piggy Park restaurant in West Columbia. A would-be customer sued and the court ruled he unlawfully discriminated against blacks at his five barbecue restaurants.

Friends in Columbia kept talking about the mustard-based sauce and barbecue over rice and the blue china plates he served his meals on. I forced myself to eat fast-food and forego the good barbecue eating.

Luckily I have found some politically correct restaurants and have been able to move forward with my plan to one day be as wide as I am tall.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or by email at bpaslay@news-daily.com.