|The Search for Perfection||Our Barbecue Dream||Thoughts from Others|| Pseudo
|Our Barbecue Dream|
When we first heard about The Society for the Preservation of Traditional Southern Barbecue (SPTSB), we thought, "Wow, where do we send our $25 annual membership dues"? "Where do we buy our T-shirt and ball cap"? "What a great idea", we thought, without really stopping to think why. It was just one of those things that you instantly know is a good thing, a meaningful thing.
Looking at our computer screen, filled with large red numbers indicating another disastrous day in the financial markets, our mind escaped into deep thought about exactly why the idea of the SPTSB was so necessary. We came to the conclusion that, in this age where glass fibers the size of a human hair carry information seamlessly between the earth's ends at the speed of light, many people still have a strong appreciation for antiques. And that the cold reality of economics, the epitome of which was represented by the red numbers, was responsible for the sad fact that no other entity even made an attempt to provide the deliverance that these particular antique lovers so long for.............
All the way from the pristine pits in Lexington, North Carolina, where they reduce barbecue to only front quarters, include no skin, and serve their final product laden with of all things, ketchup! Down to the birthplace, on the North Carolina coastal plain, where pyrotechnic shows from BBQ joints have helped to guide fighter pilots to safe landings during hurricane force storms, but where they still do not properly blister the skin on the tasteless commercial hogs that they are forced to cook these days. And even those that do almost everything right, fail by not including all parts of the hog in their barbecue.
On to Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago, where they seem to have the idea that scrap rib bones are really barbecue, when they are merely a psychological and economic conquest of the population by the meat industry, along the same line as chicken wings.
Over to Kansas City. Where they seem to have no idea whether barbecue is pork, beef, rib bones or dessert.
Stretching all the way from Florida up through the northeast, across the Rockies to California, misguided "smoke joints" taint the name of pork barbecue by using non-traditional methodologies. They do this in contraptions ranging from elaborate brick smokers to politically correct stainless steel monsters, which seem better suited for an operating room, than for dealing with flesh that is already dead.
And sadly, on to the false prophet. If barbecue were a southern Baptist church, then contests would certainly be the anti-Christ. Here lies the ultimate opportunity, if not obligation, to restore, preserve and re-create the very descendent practices that made this food so beloved. So beloved, that the aura surrounding it, majestically transcends into an era where technology nerds have become icons who control much of the world's wealth. But unfortunately, these events have turned into a tragedy for barbecue. Into events where people lay their meat in contraptions with enough instrumentation to closely resemble a neuro-intensive care unit.
From all around the country they come, armed with their thermometers and mag-wheeled oil drum smokers costing thousands of dollars. These weekend warriors of the new millennium are destroying the very spirit of the food and the skills that once made pit masters, who knew how to instinctively judge meat and coals, some of the most respected people throughout their communities. Today's so-called pit masters, often seen obviously intoxicated, with even some dancing about in tutu's or wearing pig-noses in order to be noticed by judges whose credentials amount to nothing more than a one day class. Furthermore, this opportunity is lost as a result of most everyone involved getting into bed with profiteers, turning the entire thing into a monetary orgy. One that is filled with whores who will gladly decimate the foundation of barbecue in order to sell another bag of charcoal, a smoker or some other selfish pursuit. It's a world where there is no acknowledgement or appreciation for the different objectives, which are produced by different methodologies.
And thus, the local "Miss Pumpkin Pie", with her clueless taste buds, is given the judging power to determine the winners. To judge who will be the next person to take the results of these farcical events and use them as credentials for everything from press recognition to some type of barbecue related business endeavor.
But where does this massacre finally meet resistance? We know of one place where it comes close. Way down in the sticks, separated by dirt roads on a broken-down farm in the backwoods of Georgia. At Bob in Ga.com, we are making an attempt to at least put a bandage over the massive gash that this food has suffered. Here, we raise old-style hogs, free of steroids, antibiotics and concrete. Hogs similar to those that were the foundation of the food.
We can go out and kill one, scald it, shave it and gut it. Here we can burn a big fire and use the fuel historically associated with barbecue; which is hardwood logs burned to coals. We can cook our hog without the assistance of a watch or thermometer. Here we can properly blister the skin and mix the entire hog, from tail to jowls, into our barbecue, just as it was meant in life. Here we can take our meat and pile it on a fresh baked bun made of real bread, and lightly season with the only thing that the barbecue gods would ever approve of, that being seasoned vinegar. Far removed from fire codes, covenants and cumbersome health department interference, we can then bite into something that we believe is truly as pure as we could possibly achieve. While delicious, the greater reward comes from the satisfaction of knowing that we did what we could to preserve this almost extinct, antique dish.
Can this become a revolution of mass proportions? Is Bob in Ga.com alone?
At that point, let's drift off to sleep and begin to dream. Let's dream of a world that challenges everyone to take some step, any step, to move closer to preserving traditional barbecue. Let's see a world that breaks from society's present fetish for tolerance and begins to respect the snobbery and arrogance that goes along with doing something the way it was meant to be done. A snobbery that creates an environment in which many want to be a part of. We see a world where a growing faction of people balk at the "anyone can do it" type of barbecue advice and propaganda. Dream of massive groups of people, with costs sunk into pseudo-Q methodologies, swallowing those costs and starting from scratch. A world where the powers to be chastise "Condo-Q", instead of lining their pockets with money derived from clever, back-to-nature ad campaigns that promote charcoal and toothpick methodologies as having the capability to produce a true barbecue experience. A world that thumbs it's nose at time/temperature/pounds type formulas, in favor of actually learning to cook. A world where thermometer burning parties are a right of passage into the skill of pit mastership and people rise up off of their boston butts and seek out a more worthy barbecue cut. A time where events, like the ones we hold here and the ones held at Dan Gill's s few years back, spring up all over the country in a rebellious response to the parking lot smoker contests and their larger, carnival clad siblings. A world where people stop attempting to cook a descendent dish using modern technologies. How much more of an injustice can you do to something than that?
And finally, a world where people understand that taste and consistency become meaningless, if you compromise the purity of the process in order to achieve it.
As we awaken from our dream, we are forced to deal with same harsh realities that are responsible for the mass bastardization of this wonderful food. But we try to search for a silver lining in this horrible cloud that the bastardization has created over traditional barbecue. We can only hope that the rampant use of the term 'barbecue' in every marketing gimmick will cause some to delve further in the topic and garner an appreciation for traditional barbecue.
Because it is virtually impossible to purchase authentic barbecue and almost equally impossible for people to produce it themselves, we would be fooling ourselves to think that traditional barbecue could actually see a resurgence in taste appreciation. So we must settle for making an attempt to keep traditional barbecue from being completely destroyed by the current craze that it served to inspire.