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 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.