Saturday, December 23, 2017
Well, you've gone and done it. Despite all the warnings, all the lectures, the instructional videos, and the posters at the local health department, you've gone and let yet another year pass you by. Seems like only a year ago it was January 1, 2017. The new year was filled with endless hope and a sense of invigorated energy. This year would be different, things were going to change. At least that's what you told yourself. You went and bought the 37-in-1 exercise 'thing', and in only 159 more easy payments it will be all yours. You've downed gallons of baby-puke green energy drinks that almost always involve Kale. You swore on the futures of your kids' kids' you would get up at 3:30 a.m. every day to exercise on the 37-in-1 exercise thing, and you made a religious commitment just shy of burnt offerings to stay away from everything from carbs to credit cards. And yet, here we are about to start a new year. You have decided the 37-in-1 thing is really good at holding clothes that need ironing; you've convinced yourself that you are helping the economy, every Amazon employee, and every blue-collar worker by going into credit card debt; and you have rationalized a high-carb diet is actually healthful as carbs are energy. Soooo.....now that we are staring down the barrel of yet another new year, what resolutions are you willing to make this year? Exercise.....no because everyone knows I'm in shape because, according to my Geometry teacher Ms. Saliba, 'round' is a shape. Better fiscal management.....no as I've grown quite close to my new friends at the credit card company. As for carbs, when they make a good low-carb pizza that doesn't dream of tasting as good as the cardboard box in which it was shipped, then and only then will I decide to abandon my friend the carb. No my friends, this year my resolutions will center of something of a different nature. Shocker right? First of all, I know I've said I was thinking of getting the band back together, and I still might; however, I have yet to make much progress in that direction. I will resolve to be thankful for each new day in the new year. Remember, today is not a gift everyone gets anymore. I will resolve to do more to make the days better for those with whom I have contact. A smile and kind word are free. I resolve to get my articles turned in to Connie sooner (sorry if you actually heard my out loud laughter at that one). I also resolve to attend at least one BBQ competition/festival I have never been to previously. I don't mean in the competition sense but at least supporting it by attending and paying my fee at the gate. I am committed to continuing to work on my BBQ technique. I'm still searching for that perfect taste I have in mind. The problem is my mind is a bit scattered at times, so my work with consistency is somewhat tainted and not much of a 'straight line' concept. I'm going to go out on a limb and commit to no longer absolutely, positively hating the Campbell's Soup commercial with the two kids that can't communicate but try to make Wookie sounds as a way to bridge the language barrier. News flash kids, Wookies aren't real, and if they were real they sure wouldn't sound like a cat trying to sound like a cat trying to purr while hacking up a moose. Enough of that. Anyway, I do sincerely hope each and everyone of you has a great New Year. While we can't control all the events that occur, we can control how we respond to them. FYI, trying to burn them down is apparently frowned upon by the local constabulary. Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Anyone want to be a 37-in-1 thing.....brand new condition. Highly motivated seller."
Monday, October 23, 2017
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
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, 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 was......fun. 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
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!"
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
What Makes a Good BBQ Place A Good BBQ Place? This and Other Questions as Old as the Universe.....Sort of.
People are funny.....funny like a train wreck sometimes, but funny none the less. When people hear I have a BBQ Competition Team, they first laugh out loud and then automatically assume one of two things: (1) I know Myron Mixon (2) I'm really good at BBQ. Wrong on both counts; however, I do think Myron gave me a "Roll Tide" when we won our Backyard GC in Elba several years ago. It's a bit like telling people you live in Florida, and they automatically assume you live near Disney or go to the beach every weekend. You get the point. Once the cat is out of the bag on the BBQ, people start asking me questions. Of course, there is the obligatory "When you gonna make me some?" and the ever present, "Where's your favorite BBQ place?" You all know what I mean. Anyway, it got what brain cells I have left rubbing together, and I did start to wonder, "What makes a good BBQ place a good BBQ place?" It then dawned on me that BBQ and BBQ places are a lot like sex: There are many ways to do it, and when done well everyone is happy and ready for a nap. Anyway, let's briefly cover what, in my humble opinion, makes a good BBQ place. First of all, let's do it by exclusion. If you have BBQ along with catfish, tofu, grilled cheese sandwiches, kimchee, pancakes, Pate de Foie Gras, moose lips, sauerkraut, and sushi on the same menu, you might not make the top 10 for me. I've found the places that keep it simple and consistent do the best. You want fancy goose liver served to you buy a guy name Marcel, you wouldn't go down to Ace Hardware would you? Same principle. Good 'Q' is practiced and mastered....not dabbled. Next, you've got to have the right atmosphere and by atmosphere I mean you have to smell like BBQ when you leave. I was in a BBQ restaurant one time and the lady behind me was complaining of all the smoke smell. Really? You come to a BBQ place and complain because it smells like...oh I don't know....BBQ? That's like going to Victoria's Secret and complaining about all the ladies unmentionables lying about. It's just wrong. The experience of good BBQ is not just in the taste, you've got to smell it and take that smell home with you. I've also found that really good BBQ places are usually really small, made out of cinder block, and have a sign that says either "Coca-Cola" or "Pepsi" on it. If you want fine dining with fancy table cloths and neon, try Cafe Risque on I-75, and tell them Bobby and Keith sent you....so I hear. If you want good ribs or juicy pork, you go to the block house with the screen door, dirt parking lot, and maybe just maybe if you're lucky a dog sleeping near by. To this point, 231 BBQ has been around as long as I can remember, and it is nothing more than what looks like a mobile home on 231 just north of Midland City with just a few tables with plastic covers, a small menu, and nothing fancy....just good BBQ and really good Brunswick Stew. This isn't to say that larger, commercial places can't do good BBQ, but they are just missing that certain something that goes with an unassuming and humble little place. So I guess it all boils down to where exactly is my favorite BBQ place? Simple: Home. At home, I can have my BBQ, my friends, and my family. We can all be comfortable, share memories, and a good time. No one worries about being to loud, making a mess, or is it too expensive. Heck, I've even got a dog.....a lunatic dog but a dog still. So with that being said, get out there and find those little, out-of-the-way BBQ places, the mom and pop places, the little places in the strip malls (shout out to Uncle Kenny's), and the big chain restaurants, but for the love of it all, get out there and experience the different and delicious BBQ all across the fruited plain. Heck, you might even go up 231 sometime. Anyway, y'all take care and Riley says "hello".
Sunday, January 29, 2017
So I'm sitting here at my computer realizing the deadline for a submission is drawing nigh, and by nigh I mean I'm late. The holiday season has come and gone, and with this time of year my mind turns to other things. You know what I mean guys. That's right....taxes. Not that I'm opposed to paying my fair share, I just don't want to pay other's fair share. Enough on that topic. My thoughts also turn to love. With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I remember what most red-blooded men remember about St. Valentine's Day. No it isn't the little, naked kid flying around shooting arrows into the hearts of young couples making the male purchase vast amounts of chocolate and stupid little stuffed animals. I of course am referring to the gangster massacre that happened during the height of prohibition. What can I say? I'm a romantic. Anyway, moving beyond taxes and mobsters getting mowed down with machine gun fire, I also think of love. Love is a word that has taken on many meanings, and it is used 551 times in the NIV Bible, so it must have some significance. On the topic of love, C.S. Lewis wrote a book called, "The Four Loves." In this literary tome, Lewis identified the 4 types of love as Storage Love which is the empathy bond; Philia love which is love of friends; Eros Love which is erotic bond; and Agape Love or Unconditional God love. I submit to you the reader there is another type of love: 'Que Love. This type of love is a combination of three of the four loves. It is the genuine love of all things to do with BBQ which could include the smells, tastes, tools, rigs, woods, techniques, and the actual act of making good 'Q'. I will add a characteristic of this type of love and that is the love BBQ'ers share among one another. Having served in the military, I can say there is a bond that forms with those with whom you serve. There is a language, a walk, and a way of thinking shared between me and my brothers and sisters with whom I served. The same could be said of anyone that has been exposed to the BBQ community. I challenge anyone to say that the BBQ community doesn't have its own language and isn't one of the most supportive and encouraging groups anyone has ever run across. There is a genuine love among most of the folks for one another. There is Cook's Church to help us to remember Agape Love which is God's unconditional love which we should strive to share with others. There is the night-time gathering among friends that demonstrates the real meaning of Philia Love. When I think of Storage Love or the empathy bond, OBR comes to mind. Just like Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, OBR is there whenever and wherever the storms happen. I don't pretend to be on the same level as C.S. Lewis as I don't have a magical wardrobe in my home; however, I think we all can share an idea of love that is just a bit bigger than any one person. I know I did't cover the type of love called Eros Love. 'Eros' being the root of the word erotic, if you can work 'erotic' into BBQ well.......that's just a bit creepy with a hint of scary. Anyway, tell the ones you love that you love them and then do it again. Yes, I will probably buy my lovely wife some chocolates, a card, and maybe find a good deal on flowers, but I refuse, REFUSE, to purchase a cutesy little bear with some baby talk 'I Wuv You' plastered across the chest. Inside joke there. Bill Pacheco, you know what I mean. Anyway, y'all take care, and Riley says, "Sup?"