"BBQ That Tastes Like Home"

After 32 years away, Dr. Joe B. Martin has returned home to Charlotte, NC as the lead pastor at Sardis Presbyterian Church.
It was about 14 years ago that I first tried being a vegetarian for the season of Lent. I picked that because it seemed like it would be difficult and predictably over the next four Lents I experienced varying degrees of failure. There were at least three reasons I could not pull it off. 1. My body wanted more protein than I was willing to give it via tofu. 2. My meals were so uninteresting that I would just skip them. 3. I had a tough time finding food that involved actual chewing to the point that I began to covet my dog’s toys.

In my 5th Lenten attempt, I decided make the practice more sustainable. I added a protein drink and bar to my daily menu, which solved problem 1. I ate seafood a couple times a week to address problem 2. I tend to overcook fish, so this inadvertently addressed problem 3. Success! I made it through Lent with barely a craving (more on that in a sec.) and felt so much healthier that I decided to continue the practice for a bit longer. After a doctor’s appointment showed my cholesterol levels to be satisfactory for the first time in my adult life, I decided that being a pesco-vegetarian suited me.

In preparation for my third trip to Zambia in the summer of 2017, I decided I’d start eating meat again a month before. I had remained vegetarian the last time I went, but I spent a lot of time being hungry (and the chicken our Zambian hosts cook is really good). I started eating meat early so that my stomach’s reintroduction to meat would not happen in another continent. (Insert your own joke about incontinent here.) As it turned out, there was no problem and that made me wonder if I’d be able to give meat up again after the trip.
Upon returning to the US, I was waffling on my diet. (Waffles are fine, but I was eating sausage, too.) Recognizing I did not feel as healthy and fearing my cholesterol level had skyrocketed, I decided I would return to pesco-vegetarianism as soon as had three more meaty meals of the things I missed most. First, a Chick-fil-A sandwich. (OK, I checked that one off several times.) Second, a really expensive steak cooked by a really expensive professional. Check (big check). Third,—and this was really the only thing I had been craving over the last decade—North Carolina BBQ. Not living in NC during this time, giving up BBQ was easy. They don’t do it right in Tennessee or Georgia. You can argue about what kind of NC BBQ is best. I love all of it. Now my problem was that I was still living in Georgia, so my opportunities to check off meat meal #3 were only when I was home visiting Mom. One trip to see her at Lake Norman I got Siri to send me to the nearest BBQ joint. When I went to the counter to order, I asked, “What’s best?” The woman said, “The brisket.” WHAT?!?! At this point I noticed the big map of Texas on the wall behind her (sigh). I ordered pork, anyway. This was not the stuff and I could not check off meal #3.

A month later I was back in Charlotte for the Joe Martin ALS Foundation golf tournament and dinner with my friend, Gill. It was a Sunday night and the BBQ joints my brothers’ friends recommended were all closed. We went to the best option that was open and the BBQ was good, but not exactly what I was looking for. Still, I was ready to be done with this and checked it off.

The next day at the dinner after the tournament (that Gill and I won, which means Gill is good) the catered buffet included (you guessed it) BBQ. Feeling a little guilt, I took one tiny scoop. CHECK! That was it. Only needed one bite. I was done…

…at least until I moved back to Charlotte this year. You see, Sardis Presbyterian Church sponsors two Scout troops and they each have a BBQ fundraiser during the year. In fact, more than a few of my friends responded to the news that I was headed to Sardis by saying, “The church with the scouts with the best BBQ.” It just seemed rude not to get some when Troop 33 was selling it in the spring. My friends were right. Troop 133 will be selling it this weekend Oct. 12-13 and surely my new calling as the pastor at Sardis includes a divinely ordered responsibility to support our scouts. I can’t wait.

The 2018 Joe Martin ALS Foundation golf tournament and dinner is Monday at Ballantyne Country Club. You can register for just the dinner. Hope I see you there. I wonder what’s on the menu? In any case, Gill and I will be getting some BBQ from the scouts to prepare. If you want some of that, too, you’d better get there first. It goes fast.

It is good to be home and God is good. So is the BBQ that tastes like home.


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