If you're from Texas, barbecue means beef brisket. If you're from almost anywhere else in the South, it means pulled pork. But in western Kentucky, specifically in and around Owensboro, barbecue means mutton.
We had hoped to go to Owensboro's International Barbecue Festival during last year's excursion to Kentucky, but weather kept us away. As a consolation, DPaul's mother sent us a shipment from the famous Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn, considered by many to be the ultimate barbecue in the area. However, she sent us just the pulled pork in sauce, not the mutton they are so known for. This year, we took matters into our own hands and ordered some up.
Mutton is, of course, adult sheep (also used to refer to goat meat in some places), and so it stands to reason that it is gamier than pork or beef. Indeed, I think the mutton meat by itself would be overwhelmingly gamy, but hickory smoke and the sweet-vinegar dip complement it very nicely indeed. Of course you have to have that on a soft bun, and you better be sure there's cole slaw involved. Myself, I like mine right on top of the meat; DPaul keeps it on the side.
Now, for some reason, pulled pork is served in a "sauce" whereas the mutton is served in a "dip." Personally, they taste rather similar to me, though the dip is thinner and maybe a bit more vinegary. Whatever it is, it is delectable.
I've railed against the obliteration of true regional foods, especially in places like Kentucky. This is exactly the kind of thing I hope and pray will stay around for a very long time indeed. It is unique to its area, and has been lovingly developed and improved over many, many years. You can't get a more authentic taste of Kentucky than this, food miles be damned.
Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn
2840 W. Parrish Ave, Owensboro KY
(Photograph from Moonlite's site)
One year ago today ... I kicked off the Great Guac Hunt. Guess it's time to pick that ball up again.