Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with pulled pork from North Carolina, which joined the union on November 21, 1789.
The state: North Carolina only joined the Confederacy when Lincoln asked them to invade their sister state. Despite South Carolina's insistence on mustard-based sauce, North Carolina refused. The state nonetheless provided a small number of troops to the Union, a tradition that has remained in the personage of Chapel Hill and the Triangle, which has long provided quarter to college-aged Yankees and general weirdos. Like Missouri, North Carolina has a long jazz tradition—from John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk—that mostly involves leaving for New York. Ben Folds Five, however, never left.
The food: Pulled pork with vinegar-based sauce. The proper version of this is a subject of no small politics in North Carolina, which in 2006 issued two competing bills to the legislature that would have taken a side on whether the Lexington-style, pork-shoulder-usin', ketchup-includin' pork barbecue, or the East-style, whole-pig-smokin', no-ketchup-havin' pork barbecue was the state's official" version. In the end, the Lexington barbecue Festival was ruled to be the official barbecue festival of the "Piedmont Region." Either way, you cook the pig till you can pull it apart with a fork into little tender bits, and then you eat it, on a bun or off, probably with slaw.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.