Kat Robinson working on recipes for the "The Great Arkansas Pie Book" in 2023. Kat Robinson

Kat Robinson, Arkansas’s preeminent food historian and travel writer, has recently launched “The Great Arkansas Barbecue Questionnaire” for research purposes ahead of her newest book covering Arkansas barbecue. The survey, aimed at owners of barbecue restaurants in Arkansas, is intended not only to cover the state’s barbecue joints in the traditional sense but also “purveyors of smoked meats in general, for Mexican barbacoa, Peruvian roasted meats, anything that can be considered barbecue,” Robinson said in a Facebook post.

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Robinson has been traveling the state for several months researching and scouting our plethora of barbecue joints in order to “document the whos and what and hows and all the flavors of Arkansas and its barbecue,” she said in another Facebook post. Robinson told us she’s already visited hundreds of barbecue joints and food trucks throughout her research so far.

“When I started looking, I had suspected I’d find a similar number that I did when I was writing ‘Another Slice of Arkansas Pie,’ something under that 500 mark,” Robinson said, “but the more I look, the more barbecue I see, and I suspect in the end there will be more places to find it than pie.”

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Like her previous books on the state’s pie sources or dairy bars, Robinson is comprehensive in her research and said her new book won’t just be about “your local joint with a pig on the sign.”

“There are some amazingly well-curated smoked meats being produced all over,” she said. “And there are types of barbecue that should be considered alongside our traditional places — folks who are making barbacoa and smoked bulgogi and the smoked meats in different parts of our hill country,” she said.

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Questions about restaurant type (brick and mortar, food truck, other), opening days and hours, what meats are served, most popular sauces and what kind of wood is used for smoking are asked in the questionnaire, among others. The answers gathered through the questionnaire will be used to supplement research for the upcoming book.

Robinson said she’s been thinking about barbecue as the subject for a book for a long time but held back after hearing rumors that other writers in the local market had a similar plan already in the works.

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“I knew I wanted to write about it,” she said. “Barbecue isn’t a singular thing. There are all sorts of ties back through our history, through different parts of our culture, and I wanted to bring those threads together and share what I’d learned.”

Robinson said it was eye-opening learning through her research that Arkansas’s pork pit barbecue tradition didn’t originate in Memphis and our beef smoking wasn’t a Texas tradition.

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“I have months more of research to do before I feel I’ll be able to truly share the story of Arkansas’s barbecue. I am absolutely determined to get it right.”

Robinson’s newest book, which she hopes to have published by November 2024, will be the first comprehensive piece of literature on the subject of Arkansas barbecue, a work that is very long overdue.

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You can find The Great Arkansas Barbecue Questionnaire here.

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