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Michelle Obama, trapped in the barbecue wars

“Charlotte is a city marked by its Southern charm, warm hospitality and an “up by the bootstraps” mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue.”

First lady Michelle Obama finds herself in the middle of the Carolina barbecue wars.

Some North Carolina barbecue connoisseurs are roasting Obama for saying Charlotte — the newly picked city for the 2012 Democratic Party convention — has “great barbecue.”

John Shelton Reed — the author of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue — told the Associated Press: “Complete the sentence: As a barbecue town, Charlotte is one, not what it used to be; two, like Minneapolis for gumbo; three, good enough for Yankees; four, not far from Shelby.”

Shelby is a small town near Charlotte, which is known for barbecue.

It’s a North Carolina thing, we guess.

Perhaps Obama — who also praised Charlotte for its vibrancy, diversity and opportunity — should have gone with what Charlotte is, in fact, known for: Home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It’s also possible that Mrs. Obama wanted to pay tribute to the entire North and South Carolina area, where barbecue is indeed king; Charlotte sits very near the state line.

On the other hand, the hardcore barbecue lobby is hard to satisfy. Its intense debates — vinegar-based vs. mustard-based, eastern North Carolina vs. western North Carolina, South Carolina vs. North Carolina — will never end. And don’t discount rural resentment of the “big city.”

Besides — and The Oval once lived in the area long ago — there IS barbecue in Charlotte, and it’s OK. So give the first lady a break.

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, isn’t taking the barbecue attacks lying down.

It sent out an e-mail with tributes to Charlottle barbecue, including this one from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority’s “Taste of Charlotte” guide:

“Barbecue is a non-negotiable must-have in North Carolina, so stop by Mac’s Speed Shop for a taste of some Southern favorites including pulled pork, ribs, chili, Brunswick stew, and Mac’s own delectable mac n’ cheese. Half biker bar and half restaurant, this spot has earned a tasty reputation. Connoisseurs like renowned chef Mario Batali and Rick Browne of TV’s ‘Barbecue America’ are big fans.”

Here, by the way, is part of what Obama said about Charlotte, in an e-mail announcing the city’s selection as 2012 convention host:


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