Maybe I’m A Hater

meanpig01

The barbecue posts have been slow and few.  I squarely hinge this on Canada’s lovely winter.  The sub-zero temperatures and mounds of snow have effectively kept me indoors and iced any barbecue ambitions.  Jack Frost has won.

Until the snow starts melting, the buds start blooming and I can walk outside in a hoodie or spring jacket without batting an eye, I’m left to day-dream of slow cooked, cherry wood spiked meat.  Or surf the internet in all of it’s glory.

And in surfiing, the one thing I’ve taken notice to is a growing trend of quasi-barbecue enthusiasts to stake their ‘cue credibility as if almost they were throwing up gang signs.  I’ll admit this was a habit that I used to extol but then I stopped because I thought to myself, “who really fucking cares?”.

Perhaps it’s a reflex of being a Torontonian where mediocrity seems to status-quo and authenticity seems to be non-existent. Maybe, our knee jerk reaction is to prove to our peers, our critics and our followers that our passion isn’t fleeting and there is a degree of authenticity behind it.

Maybe.

Maybe it’s just bullshit.

The most common assertion of barbecue prowess on the net is the fabled “…I have a smoker and I’ve been to the south quite a bit.” Oh god.  I can feel my eyes rolling already.  And for whatever reason, I can’t stop them.  First off, just because you have a smoker doesn’t mean you are any good at it.  Just because I have an oven does that make me a good baker?  Or wait, I have a car…soooo I guess I’m like a Nascar Driver then?  Secondly, let’s dissect this claim of going to the south “a lot “.  When most Torontonians claim this, it usually means they’ve spent ample hours driving through states that I-95  cut through in order to get to Orlando or Hilton Head.  In which case, the only “southern states” you are crossing through are North/South Carolina, Georgia and Florida respectively.  Of that, only the Carolina’s are a notable ‘cue region (everyone forgets there’s Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Kentucky and even Illinois).    Furthering that point, just because you’ve been to or through a region doesn’t mean jack-shit when it comes to food knowledge.  I have never, ever in my life been to Jamaica, but I’ll bet the farm that I can cook a better oxtail and rice and peas better than any of you assholes that frequent Montego Bay annually.

My point is, visiting an area doesn’t automatically equate to knowing a) the food culture and more importantly b) knowing how to cook it authentically well.  My oxtail domination – god I’m humble – is solely based on the fact that I’ve inherited a recipe and a technique that’s 3 generations deep (I learned it from my mother who learned it from my grandmother who I’m sure learned it from my great grandmother when her Chinese ass landed in Jamaica).  Likewise, a lot of my barbecue knowledge has been accrued through internet-acquaintances and/or IRL friends that are from Texas, South Carolina or Tennessee.

When I visit areas of the south all it does is remind me how much work as a barbecuer I have to go and what inherent handicaps we as Torontonians are faced with (hi, no peach, hickory or mesquite trees).  There’s no seeing the light.  There’s no epiphany.  There’s no revelation of Mecca.  There’s maybe a stinky poop and an added 5lbs.  But I’m not instantly touched by the divine light and crowned barbecue god.  That only comes with practice and the constant scrutiny of friends with very tall yardsticks.

Advertisements

Do It Yourself

For 2009, I rang in the new year’s prepping and re-doing the floor on my newly acquired studio that I share with Ben.  For the record, Ben literally rang in the new years scraping linoleum off of the floor whereas I took a little break to have a brewski.

The renovations have been if anything more than a labor of love, an exercise in home renovations.   It’s back breaking work, but I’ve learned a bunch of trades and skills that I consider useful in the game of life, including tempering your frustrations.

Doing it yourself has been a personal mantra since my days of Lego and G.I. Joe’s (I used to swap limbs and body parts of other G.I. Joe figures to create hybrid figurines) and it continues to be my driving force well into adulthood.

So what does this have to do with barbecue?  Well considering my very own smoker was a DIY homemade project birthed in an unoccupied apartment bedroom, I have a level of great respect and candor for barbecuer’s that build their own devices and contraptions.  Especially this guy:

The Kids Are Alright

Agent Mule sent me an email the other day effectively shattering my hopes of being a great pit master.  He glibly pointed out that no matter how much smoke plumes from my backyard, no matter how many cords of wood I stockpile and no matter how large and fatty the steer, I can never achieve the status of my colleagues from the Lone Star state. In the email, he compared a Texan’s affinity and knowledge of barbecue to French Canadians and poutine. In post-email conversation, he furthered that point by liken it to Canadians and hockey;   it’s more of a religion where indoctrination starts at a very early age.

He then attached a picture to prove his point.

Nick,

The art of smoking a brisket is so innate to the Lone Star State that 3 year olds are winning BBQ competitions with their dry rub blends and custom smokers. It’s like a Québécois and his poutine. It would be silly for example for an Los Angeles food geek to try  and ‘curd up’ with the big boys of Canada. The moral of the story is no matter how bad one wants it, or how much smoke the neighbors see coming from your house if you’re not born in Texas your pit mastering skills will always be lacking savoir-faire. I am sorry. Blame the asian texan kid.

Begin forwarded message:

From: lreinauer <lreinauer@.com>
Date: December 13, 2008 4:00:00 PM EST
To: edgarburns@.com
Cc: Ed Reinauer <ereinauer@.com>
Subject: briskid 3

g

unknown

I will admit, kid is cute.

Goddamit

Cian Browne sent this to me the other day and said that I need a jingle.  Goddamit.  How right he is.

Barbecue Hood: Texas

Trillin BBQ Dept.L.indd

Barbecue on a global scale, is represented by a wide variety of styles.  For instance, in the Carribbean, jerk is barbecue’s most popular form.  In India, Tandoor ovens are used to slow cook chicken, lamb and a laundry list of meats.  Here in North America – namely the Bible Belt area of the U.S. of A. – wood burning cues resembling or sometimes even constructed from oil drums are the preferred tool of the trade.

But even in the Southern states, the style of cue varies depending on what region you are in.  In Kanasas, the stalwart history of stockyards crowns prok – especially ribs – as king.  In the Carolinas, pulled pork with a unique zesty, vinegar-heavy sauce rules.  And down in Texas, the steer reigns supreme.

In fact, the steer quotient in Texas is so high, that more than 80% of Texans suffer from colon cancer and 90% of Texans under the age of 19 have never seen a pig IRL.  The lack of cloven hoof down there is astonishing.  But what is more shocking, is that 97% of Texans have claimed to have “personal relationships” with cows before Betsy Bovine is slaughtered, skinned and smoked into Brisket.  Texans LOVE their beef.

This brings us to today’s New Yorker which features the very best that the Lone Star state has to offer.  The top 50 barbecue spots in Texas is very much like Calvin Trillin comparison to People’s 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.  Positions very rarely change, new-comers try to crack the list, but the top-picks are always Captain Obvious.

Click here to read the full article.

My Hero

Snaps on Snacks

The following post has nothing to do with barbecue other than the brief mention of Sweet Baby Rays Barbecue sauce.  If you can live with that, then please, do enjoy.