Sunday, May 21, 2017

Home Is Where You Park It.

Home is Where You Park It

So I'm sitting in my man cave trying to recover from my work on Shangri-La and I wonder if the bugs that have bitten me all weekend will result in some new mutation of an already existing disease i.e. avian bird flu, Ebola, or dandruff and I couldn't help but think about the evolution of the BBQ housing market. Go to any BBQ competition and you will be inundated with a veritable cornucopia of temporary living quarters. I think everyone would agree, the housing situation in BBQ has improved significantly over the years. Back to the days when Ook and Grunt were hunting T-Rex, cooking over a fire, and living in a cave to the now air-conditioned, satellite-television, 42 ft. RV of today, I would submit things have improved greatly for the BBQ competitor. I remember watching some of the early BBQ shows and all Myron Mixon had an easy up, a table, and blankets. He may have up graded just a bit. So all of this makes me wonder, when we suffered in the heat or freezing cold, did we do better than when we had A/C and other amenities? Were the competitions attended better? Our first foray into competitive BBQ was at the Tri-State BBQ Festival. We had two easy up's, two coolers, three 2 ½ smokers, no knowledge what so ever about competition BBQ, but enthusiasm by the truck load. We weren't alone though. Back in those days, while RV's were not uncommon, they weren't the norm either. That night, we got really cold, and it didn't help that all I had was a pair of shorts and a towel that I would warm over the firebox before draping over my legs for warmth. Lesson learned. The first year at Elba, I do believe the temperature might possibly have hit 134 degrees in the daytime with matching humidity to a night-time low of a brisk 98 degrees. Alternately, the first year Elba was in November, I thought for sure this was going to be how I died....hypothermia since I think the temperature got down to -23. Through it all, I learned a lot about competing, made some great memories, and even got a couple of calls along the way. The friends and family that made up Grandpa's Pride BBQ were green and dumb, alternated between sweltering and freezing, had little to no experience, bumbled our way through the competition, and you know what? We had a flipping blast. There was something neat about being out in the open, interacting with the folks next to you, getting to know one another, coveting their trailer/smoker/air conditioning/heat, actively hallucinating from the heat/cold and taking bets on who would die first, or when the folks attending the festival came around passively begging for a sample. It was a real and genuine experience. It Fast forward a couple of years and we have Shangri-La. More importantly, we have heat/air conditioning. The experience was still fun, but it started to seem a bit detached. I also started to notice more trailers, a lot more trailers. Bigger and better trailers, toy haulers, RV's, and motor homes the size of my home with fewer and fewer folks braving the elements in the raw. Don't misunderstand me, I'm all about comfort and being comfortable which is why I proudly chose to serve in the United States Air Force versus the Marine Corps. Shangri-La was designed with that sole purpose in mind. I won't lie though, I kind of miss the days being out in the open and interacting with the folks attending the festivals. I actually miss being able to share war stories about the heat/cold of Elba and the flood of Dothan. It just isn't quite the same war story when it centers on the fact the TV antennae would only pick up 8 stations or the wifi wasn't working well enough to stream Netflix. I would throw out this idea as an experiment: Have a competition where no trailers are allowed other than to transport equipment. Everyone would be required to have easy up's, tents, and tables outside. Let the crowds see what goes into the rough and tumble world of professional BBQ competitions. Let them see the excited panic, the frenetic pace of getting turn-in's ready, the afterglow of last box done and gone. Let the attendees ask questions, get inspired, and interact with the teams. And if they are really nice, a little Scooby snack for stopping by and visiting. Just a thought. It's hard to go back to the raw living experience, and I appreciate that. Anyway, just a thought. Still, the folks at the competitions are great, and while I don't compete anymore, I do fondly remember the good people I met along the way. I won't say never, so stay tuned. In closing, with Memorial Day coming up, I ask that you remember those that bore the burden of serving and paid with their lives for all of us. Regardless of your politics, I think those that paid the ultimate price and the families they left behind deserve that respect. Y'all take care, be safe, and Riley says, “Hello....and turn down the A/C.”

Jeffery S. Stone
Grandpa's Pride BBQ

Saturday, April 29, 2017

BBQminications...It's the Word on Words.

So I'm sitting here at my computer at Grandpa's Pride BBQ's Secret Test location instead of sitting at the Thirsty Pig Craft Beer Taproom in Dothan, AL enjoying a nice craft beverage pondering my next literary installment.  One thought that has been swirling around my brain matter is the language used by BBQ folks.  In support of this thought, I have coined a new term:  BBQminications.  Obviously a play on BBQ Communications.  Why make my own word for this?  Why not?  It's my article so here we are.  Since the dawn of mankind, communication skills have been used, misused, and generally evolved.  After all, God communicated quite clearly to Adam and Eve on what not to do....which they immediately did anyway.  The art of communication comes in many forms.  There is the spoken, written, sung, drawn, acted, coded, and abbreviated.  In each of these mediums, many would argue that women are better at communicating than the average man.  I would agree.  We men tend to be simple in our communication styles...typically grunts, monosyllabic words, or just one maybe two word answers.  Women tend to communicate in a style that can best be measured by using clocks, calendars, or solar eclipses and may/may not answer the original question.  BBQminications is the perfect blend of simple and original words and phrases that describe specific events and/or actions in the wild and woolly world of BBQ.  I'm sure I'll miss a few, so please feel free to add to this list.
Spot On:  Typically used to describe a pit master's view on how well he/she feels their BBQ entry turned out when the feeling is things are as they should be.  This refers to tenderness, flavor profile (more on that later), and presentation to some degree.  It is often used when venting frustration about a judge's score which probably doesn't live up to what the pit master was expecting.  
Flavor Profile:  Flavor profile refers to the overall taste of the BBQ in question.  Flavor profiles can be sweet, savory, sweet/heat or as evidenced by the scores I used to get in taste, "Heaven Above What is This #&@#?"
Grand Champion (GC):  Used to describe someone who is quite happy at the end of the day.
Reserve Grand Champion (RGC):  Used to describe someone not quite as happy as the GC at the end of the day.
Smoke Ring:  A ring within the outer layer of the protein in question which is created via a chemical reaction.  Or in the case of some inexperienced judges, a reason to score you lower if there isn't one there or it is a small one.  No, I'm not still angry.
Protein:  For some reason the term now used to describe the meat getting cooked.  It used to be that you called the meat you were cooking 'meat'.  Somewhere along the line that changed.  I call my truck a truck because, well, it's a truck.  Technically, I could call it a combustion engine powered transportation and passenger delivery vehicle but that would be silly.....accurate but silly.
Burnt Ends:  These are delicious dark nuggets of beefy goodness that have the same texture of the clouds in Heaven and when done properly the taste of pure perfection.  This does not mean they are burned despite what one judge put on a friend's comment card at a competition....totally not kidding.
Butt:  The upper part of a pig's front shoulder that contains the 'money muscle'.  Not part of the actual butt of the pig.
Money Muscle:  The end of the pork butt that is full of fat strands, flavor, and when done properly brings home the money for the pit master.
Pink Drink:  Apparently, a delicious concoction enjoyed by many that brings on superhuman strength and love for one another.  
In short, BBQer's have their own language.  Many will understand it, and many will think it's silly talk.  I don't care as long as there are lots of people really, really good at creating it and keep on doing just that.  Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Happy Easter!"