If you think Southern barbecue is all ribs and brisket, The Washington Post says your notions are outdated. At the recent 15th annual Southern Foodways Alliance conference, members of the food cognoscenti in media, hospitality, and academia came together to discuss the state of barbecue today.

A number of presentations covered barbecue’s place in America’s increasingly diverse milieu. Novelist Monique Truong read a love letter to a North Carolina barbecue joint in which she described the culture clash that faced her as a Vietnamese immigrant, and Joe York presented his documentary on race and gender called Helen’s Bar-B-Que: ‘I Am the Pitmaster.’ The documentary features Helen Turner, a black woman who owns a barbecue restaurant in Brownsville, Tennessee.

But most of all, it was the food served at the symposium that showed “what barbecue has become: something larger than its image of meat slathered in sauce.” Traditional barbecue was available alongside Vinny Dotolo’s menu that included fried chicken liver banh mi with smoked pig’s head. To some attendees, signs of evolution were evident in the all-vegetarian feast from Poole’s Diner chef Ashley Christensen, who served “barbecued popcorn; continued with mustard greens and crispy okra dressed with benne-tahini dressing, smoked tomato pie and whipped corn cream… with pumpkin hummingbird cake with peanut custard.”

[via The Washington Post]