Choice,” lovingly applied to passingnbutts by freelance inspectors in pignnoses. I couldn’t help but think ofna recent grim “feminist-vegetarian”nmonograph called The Sexual Politics ofnMeat. Dropped here by the banks of thenMississippi, its poor author would probablynhave been carried off gibbering.n(Later I picked up a copy of NationalnBarbecue News in which a columnistnurged that those who suffer from HIV—nhigh intake of vegetables—should bentreated with compassion.)nSome men wore overalls. Westernnclothes, or biker gear, but most worenshorts and T-shirts, often revealing allntoo plainly what beer and barbecue canndo to the male physique. Overdressednand hot in the khakis and seersucker I’dnworn on the plane, I reflected that thosenof us from Back East have to upholdnstandards, but welcomed the frequentnspritzes from the water guns of good-naturednparty animals.nAt the judges’ tent we encountered anman with rows of rib bones worn on hisnchest like decorations. Given the atrociousnpuns I’d already been subjected to,nI didn’t have to ask (rib bones=ribbons,nget it?). He was dispensing barbecuenwisdom like “Both the pork and thencook should be well-basted.” I’ll bet younsay that to all the girls, I thought. Mynjudicial duties wouldn’t begin until thennext day, so we set off to take in thenshowmanship competition.n”Showmanship” was judged on thenbasis of musical routines with barbecuenand Italian themes, and most strong effortsnseemed to come from teams of corporationnor government agency employeesnwho brought a sort of officenparty atmosphere to the proceedings.n”White boys can’t dance,” my sisternmuttered, while we were watching onenof these efforts. I reminded her thatnblack ones probably couldn’t either afterndrinking as much beer as these guys had.nShoot, they were doing pretty well tonstand.nA group from Southern Bell presentedna typical offering. Set in “Mama Bella’snPizzeria,” it began with a grapestompingnnumber, followed by “SmokenGets in Your Eyes” (“They asked menhow I knew / I’d be barbecue”), a finen”Barbara Ann” take-off (“You got mensmokin’ and a-grillin’ / Sauce will be aspillin’n/ Barbecue, bar bar, bar barbecue”),nthree girls singing “Where thenBoars Are,” and a mildly risque send-upnof an old Platters number (“Only you /n40/CHRONICLESnCan be my barbecue”). At the end thenwhole cast joined in a dance number inspirednby the idea of barbecue pizza.nInevitably, several other skits celebratednthis concoction, which I gather is actuallynserved as a regular thing at onenMemphis restaurant. I ate some at thenjudges’ reception and it’s not quite asnvile as it sounds.nAlas, the showmanship we saw wasnrather tame—nothing to match M. C.nHamhock. For genuine unglued weirdnessnwe had to wait until that evening,nwhen the featured act on the big stagenturned out to be none other than mynold Raleigh buddy the Reverend Billy G.nWirtz, down from Nashville where henmoved last year to pursue his dream.nAn.audience of several thousand rowdynSouthern pork-eaters sat rapt as Billy regalednus with songs about truck-drivingnlesbians from outer space and othernproducts of his off-center mind. Afternthe show I introduced Billy to my sister,nand he took us back to his van where hengave us each a bottle of snake oil.nThe end to a perfect day. And the seriousnbusiness of the contest—judgingnthe pork—hadn’t even begun.nNext month: judgment Day.n]ohn Shelton Reed writes from ChapelnHill, North Carolina, where some of hisnbest friends are vegetarians. Others arenpigs.nLetter From Parisnby Curtis CatenGrasshoppers and AntsnMany American children who arenbrought up on Mother Goose stories, asnwell as other fairy tales, may not knownthat their author was a 17th-centurynFrenchman, Charles Perrault. They maynalso not realize that the fable of thenmelodious grasshopper (in actual fact ancicada) who whiles away the warm summernmonths in full-throated song, whilenthe busy ant stocks up provisions for thenbitter winter—so charmingly illustratednyears ago by Walt Disney in one of hisnfirst “Silly Symphonies”—was the brainchildnof another 17th-century Frenchman,nJean de La Fontaine.nThis might seem a roundabout way ofnleading up to Edith Cresson—who wasnnnappointed French prime minister in Mayn1991 and then resigned after the Socialists’nbig defeat last March—but fornthe fact that it was she herself, an outspokenndefender of French industrial interests,nwho used the famous simile tonwarn her overly nonchalant compatriots—implicitlynlikened to easygoingngrasshoppers—about the looming threatnposed, not only to France but to WesternnEurope as a whole, by the ant-likenindustriousness of the Japanese.nMany attempts have been made byncommentators to explain why PresidentnMitterrand ever chose in the first placena woman deputy to replace his enemy,nMichel Rocard—an enemy because henlong ago founded a Socialist Party splinter-group,ndared prematurely to stakenout his own presidential ambitions, andnmanaged to survive three years in officenwith his popularity in public-opinionnpolls virtually undiminished (a feat nonFrench premier has achieved sincenGeorges Pompidou). If this gamble wasnintended to curry favor with femininenvoters, who now outnumber Frenchnmenfolk, it clearly failed. Edith Cresson—whonhad held the ministerial postsnof Agriculture (1981-1983), ForeignnTrade (1983-1986), and European Affairsn(1988-1990)—was no MargaretnThatcher, and within weeks of her appointmentnher rating in the polls hadnsunk to a level unequaled by any of hernpredecessors. It was, furthermore, an actnof rashness to pick a woman who oncenbelonged to the presidential serailn(seraglio), for this offered Jean Amadou,nthe witty scriptwriter, and his puppetoperatingncolleagues, a golden opportunitynfor mercilessly lampooning hernpast relations with her “chou-chou”nand “cheri” (Francois Mitterrand) innStephane Collaro’s Bebete Show, wherenshe acquired the name of Amabotten(freely translated—the Boot-Licker) andnwas presented to television viewers in thenguise of a fawning, doll-like creature, evernready to drool at the mouth in thenpresence of her god and master.nI must confess that, notwithstandingnher parler cru (crude talk) and certainnunnecessary lapses—such as suggestingnthat one Englishman in every four is an”pansy”—I felt a lurking sympathy fornEdith Cresson. For regardless of the SocialistnFrangois Mitterrand might havenchosen to succeed Michel Rocard, he ornshe would have faced the same dauntingnproblems and the same social unrest.nThere are a number of reasons forn