It’s a Small Barbecue World After All

Not every newspaper story has a movie in it, but this one sure does: The Washington Post has written a stirring tale of foreign teams traveling to America to compete—with mostly tragicomic results—in the world’s largest pork barbecue cookoff in Memphis.

Think Cool Runnings, only with slow cookers instead of bobsleds, and Norwegians, Estonians, and Belgians instead of Jamaicans. Between the cross-cultural misunderstandings (cloudberry-based sauces won’t typically impress a bunch of rugged Southern judges), language barriers, and different approaches to the cooking itself, there’s ample room for comic and dramatic developments.

And, of course, there’s a feel-good ending that transcends the numerical meat-rating system:

The foreign teams learned that competitors are generous: with advice, equipment, samples of pork, home-brew and, in at least one case, some mighty strong bloody marys (in exchange for Estonian vodka and Norwegian aquavit). They also eagerly joined the party spirit once the cooking was done. On Saturday night, while the firefighters picked off the remains of the whole hog for delivery to a homeless shelter, a tipsy Ounapuu, wearing a leather Viking shirt, gave hug after hug to visitors hanging out in his tent.

‘We do all this for friendship,’ said Steve Sims of the River Rat Pig Porkers, a Mississippi team stationed next door. ‘To meet these guys is totally awesome.’