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Isn’t pulled-pork barbecue worth bending the rules a little? Marcie Cohen Ferris considers the dietary strictures and compromises of Jewish Southerners in her new book, Matzoh Ball Gumbo. Part sociological study, part cookbook, Matzoh Ball examines how southern Jews uphold their spiritual and regional identities simultaneously through the inventive interpretation of Kashrut, dietary laws rooted in the Talmud. Orthodox and conservative Jews avoid pork and shellfish, and they separate meat from dairy products—which pretty much rules out ’cue with a side of mac and cheese. Yet congregants at Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth in Memphis, Tenn., have blended southern and Jewish cooking traditions through their annual Kosher BBQ Contest. (The event logo consists of a smiling pink pig triumphantly sporting the red international “no” slash across his chest.) Competitive cooks grill beef ribs dowsed with closely guarded combinations of such rabbinically approved condiments as beer, mustard, Pepsi, and Jack Daniel’s. The contest attracts participants from all levels of observance in the Memphis Jewish community, and no doubt a number of gentile BBQ enthusiasts as well. Mazel tov and pass the hot sauce when Ferris reads at 5 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Hetty Lipscomb)