Saturday, November 17, 2018

Live from Ground Zero......

Hey y'all, remember me?  Kind of tall, kind of chunky, kind of sarcastic....yeah that's me.  You may have heard a little something on the news about a 'wind event' called Hurricane Michael.  Stuff got real when Jim Cantore showed up in Panama City wearing a batting helmet and the liquor stores and Waffle Houses all closed up.  If you are half as sick of it as I am, you are struggling.  Thankfully we survived with no injuries.  Our house and yard, not so much.  We had 14 trees down in our yard, and several were very, very large oak trees.  Thank God they fell where they wouldn't harm anyone or do any major damage.  We did have one oak snap in half at the tail end of the high winds that decided to punch some holes in the roof before flying away to another county as kindling.  This of course caused water damage to hardwood flooring and some ceilings.  The good news is we can fix it all.  Being the eternal optimist that I am, we now have a lot of natural light for the yard and house, no leaves to rake, the power bill will be much less this month (this is what happens when you have no power for 11 days), and Lulabelle has enough wood to feed her for several cooks.  See, lemonade out of lemons.  While venturing out a few days after the storm, I did ask the guy at Lowe's if he knew where I could buy some firewood fairly cheaply.  He looked at me like I had three Hillary Clinton heads until I told him I was kidding.  The look of relief was immediate.  In all seriousness, I'm thankful because I know it could have been much worse, and to know that all I have to do is walk outside and gaze upon the sea of blue roofs and debris piles.  I also learned something new, I now know why before there was electricity and cable t.v. families were so large.  In all seriousness, I learned many things which I shall now enumerate for your reading pleasure:  1)  You get to know your neighbors when you are trying to cut trees out of a road and off homes so you can at least think about getting out.  (2) It's actually quite fun to cook for your new lumberjack buddies.  I grilled about 8 pork loins for the beaver brigade, and everyone seemed to enjoy them.  I know several others did a whole lot more providing for their neighbors and the community i.e. Eastside Baptist Church and every other church in town, OBR and all of their volunteers served an insane amount of meals in Tallahassee and Panama City area, and one world-renowned cook who shall remain anonymous.  (3) Cold showers aren't that bad when the temperature is in the 90's.  I told everyone I haven't had that many cold showers since puberty.  After a while you don't even try to talk the boys down because the trust is long gone and they won't believe you.  (4) You get used to seeing devastation on a daily basis.  I actually don't think it is 'get used to' as much as it is 'oh look, more crap (insert maniacal laughter here)'.  A mental numbing if you will.  (5) I absolutely with every fiber of my being hate the phrase 'the new normal.'  Every time I hear that phrase, I want to punch the person and say, "Facial's the new normal."  I don't of course because I'm generally nice and would look horrible in horizontal stripes (see kind of chunky descriptor).  The bottom line is we are all going through different stages of personal recovery.  I don't mean getting roofs fixed and trees cut up.  I mean the 'Victim, Survivor, Thriver' recovery role.  I categorically refuse to be a victim of anything.  Being a victim means you have no power any more due to the event.  Ain't gonna happen.  Not now, not ever.  God didn't make me to be a victim because I have the victory through Him.  Survivor......maybe.  I'm definitely moving on from the storm and all the garbage there in.  A that is the person that in spite of their event actually uses it to propel and energize their self towards a higher goal.  Onward and upwards.  I think I like that.  It's better than going around punching I hear but not totally sold on that just yet.  With Christmas coming, I have to be on my good behavior whatever that looks like.  Anyway, y'all please don't forget about us here in the panhandle.  There are a lot of folks living in tents and under tarps because there just isn't any other place to live.  The world moves on.  The t.v. trucks and National Guard are gone.  OBR is already deploying to other areas that need them.  The sun still rises, and we keep trying to put things back together.  It's what we do......well that and go around saying, "It's the new normal."  Riley is not amused but still says, "Hello and why am I wearing a leash?  Where did my fence go?"  Y'all take care.  If you get a moment and feel led, please donate what money you can to OBR and/or any other relief organizations you see fit.  They do a lot and never ask for anything in return.  Just like a lot of folks I've come to know.

Jeffery S. Stone
Grandpa's Pride BBQ   

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Whoever Said 'You Can't Go Home' Was Sort of Right.

So my family and I decided to go to the Great Smokey Mountains for a family week-long vacation.  It was that or I was pretty sure I was going to make the 6:00 news and not in a good way.  Nice huh?  I told my lovely wife that I wanted to stop at a particular BBQ restaurant along the way.  This place was special to me as it was the first place I recall having BBQ, and to make it even better, it was with my grandfather.  Just the two of us men.  Granted I was probably 7, but still.....  So my wife and I make it a point to time our trip so we got to this little place at around 11:30 which we did.  The moment I walked in, I was taken back to the time I was 7.  The smell was incredible and the decor was just as it was 41 years ago with the addition of newer Alabama Football Championship regalia (insert Roll Tide Roll here).  The place is a mobile home with an addition built on for the pit, and time has taken a heavy toll on the place as evidenced by the 13.3 degree angle my chair sat at due to the floor base rotting away.  I felt like a rocket waiting for the go code.  Everything was covered in a thin film of smoke which included the fake panel wall covering and the carpet that would make any 60's, acid-dropping hippy long for the days of lost time and overplayed electric keyboards.  The place was hopping.  As there were only 6 tables in the whole place, every table was full, and the to-go service was nonstop.  The servings were huge and not expensive at all.  Camp stew, chopped BBQ pork sandwiches, french fries, and fried okra rounded out the meal.  To make it even more special, my diet Coke had 1/2 of a smashed roach, German Cockroach I believe, stuck to the side.  I called it character......Sherri called it disgusting.  You say tomato and I say tomaaaato.  With eager anticipation, I awaited our edible trip down memory lane.  Then it happened, the food arrived, and I
dug in with the excitement of a school kid with a new Trapper Keeper and Toughskin Jeans.  I expected to hear a "BOOOOM", but all I got was a "Pfffft".  Something was wrong.  It didn't taste like I remember it tasting while at the same time it tasted exactly like I remembered it.  Looking out the dirty window complete with dust and dead bugs, I thought how funny it was to me how time taints our experience and memories.  We remember things how we want to remember them and not necessarily as things were.  I ordered what we used to get when I was with my grandfather, but somehow and without him with me, it didn't taste as good as I wanted.  I managed to plow through the lunch just fine because I'm a professional on a mission.  As we sat there taking bets on how long before I fell through the structurally questionable floor, Sherri and I discussed how time changes our memory of things.  Of course we were yelling this over the window A/C units that kept the place nice and cool.  Meal and trip down memory lane over, we got up and paid the bill which was around $20.00 for two large BBQ pork sandwiches, french fries, fried okra, and bowl of camp stew with two drinks.  Not bad at all.  So next time you think you are going to relive a favorite childhood memory just make sure what you are seeking is actually there and not just a larger part of something else.  BBQ meal....$20.00, diet Coke with half of smashed German cockroach....$1.50, remembering what is really important in a memory and being the people with whom you make the memory....priceless.  So if you are ever rolling up 231 North and see a BBQ place that looks like 1/2 of a mobile home, stop in, have a coke with a roach and a BBQ pork sandwich.  Tell the nice ladies hello and avoid the far left table closest to the wall if you weigh more than 45 lbs.  Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Hello."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Red, White, and 'Q'. We call it 'Merica!

So, yet again, here you are reading the thoughts of one of your fellow BBQ brethrin.  No judgment.  Soon and as a nation, we will be celebrating yet another year of the founding of our great nation and all that it is.  Yes, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Anyone that has been to Wal-Mart can attest to that.  I've seen so many people in pajamas there that I thought I had walked into a double-wide, slumber party.  With that being said, it is also a time to reflect on the past year in our nation's history.  We have a new president with his first full year in office, and it certainly hasn't been boring.  We have also finished the World Food Contest with a new winner crowned; we have had a Jack winner; and we have had many, many other local contests with new and old winners.  I know our area has seen a decrease in the number of contests, and I don't know if that is a national trend or not.  Sadly, I suspect it is.  BBQ is a lot like our great nation.  It is constantly evolving and changing.  Much like underwear, change is a good thing.  I do think the folks of our news channels and government could learn a lot about civility from paying attention to BBQ folks.  The media is loaded with people just being plain ugly and rude to others.  You don't see that a whole lot at a competition.  Go to any BBQ competition, and anyone worth being around (minus the occasional idiot) will help you in any way and root for you when you win.  Not that winning isn't fun (so I hear), but the BBQ folks always keep in perspective the fact that it is about community.  I don't think BBQ folks will ever lose sight of that, at least I hope they don't.  I know at one of our first contests in Dothan, I had someone volunteer to show us how to shave the fat off chicken thigh skins to get bite-through skin.  Had a nice gentleman at the site next to me at my first KCBS contest show me how to build a good turn in box.  Mr. Cook even gave me a guru thermometer cable when mine got torn to pieces during transport, and Forrest Dilmore gave me a blue hippo that he got out of one of those grab machines.  Nice folks all the way around.  You don't see that a whole lot on the news, and it's easy to forget that America is made up of real, hard-working, caring, and salt-of-the-earth people.  I sincerely believe the folks in BBQ are more representative of the real Mr. and Mrs. America than what the some would have you believe.  The talking heads and politicians?  Meh.......not so much.  Remember:  Politics = poly (many) + tics (blood sucking insects).  With that being said, I challenge you Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public to get out there and say hello to your neighbor, be nice to that someone that is having a bad day, help that new team competing for the first time at a local BBQ contest, challenge the stereotype of others, and prove to the world that 'Merica is still a great place full of genuinely nice and caring people.  If you happen to do it while wearing a pair of Sponge Bob pajama bottoms at a local Wal-Mart.....then so be it.  Anyway, y'all take care and get out there and smoke some meat.  Enjoy the day and remember all those that have served and keep on serving to keep our great nation what it is.  Riley says "Hello" and "Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?  Well turn it up!"

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Father's Day Because Day of Person Laying On Couch Yelling 'Close the Door' Just Loses Something.

So here we are again.  Me with my computer and you reading this article wondering, "What in the world is wrong with that guy?"  A lot has been going on since we last met.  I have been working on yet another federal grant, and for anyone wondering, yes they are painful.  I also have taken the time to pull the trigger and purchase myself a Lang 48" Patio Model Smoker.  That's right boys and girls!  I actually spent money on a real smoker and not bodged together something on my own.  Granted, the Frankensmoker Mk. 3.2 served me well for many years, and if it weren't for a 'slight miscalculation' on my part, I'd still be using it.  Alas, time waits for no man.  While I'm not a father and have been called a 'mother' on many occasions, I felt it was high time for me to treat myself to something that didn't involve 23 trips to Lowe's, profanity that would make a sailor blush, numerous bandages, and many long hours of wondering, "Why didn't that fit right?"  What better time to do that than Father's Day.  My little baby is currently in gestation for the next 5-6 weeks.  I won't lie, I'm a bit excited about my new little one.  Will I get back into competitions.....probably not.  Will I try to do more cooking?  Probably yes.  I've been researching the Lang smoker for quite some time now.  Yes, I understand a stick burner isn't exactly 'fire and forget', but I still look forward to that wood smoked flavor.  I've always liked the theory of a reverse flow versus a direct flow smoker.  Being the nerd that I am, I've been doing comparison research, and I believe the Lang is the best choice for me.  Maybe not for you, but I'm the one at the keyboard so there's that.  I'm also giving my pellet smoker (Igor Mk. 1.1) to my father-in-law since my lovely wife has 'gently suggested' that I need to make some room in the garage.  I'm sure I'm the only one who has ever had to have that discussion.  I'll keep my juice can since it takes so little room.  Kind of makes me worry if we had kids.  Can you get to the point you have too many, and you have to get rid of the biggest one?  Same principle right?   Probably not.  I'm not even good at feeding fish much less a totally dependent human being.  Anyway, I've enlisted my good friend Forrest Dilmore to teach me the ways of the Lang.  He has one for sale you know.  I also have been following the Memphis in May BBQ contest.  Congrats to The Shed for winning it all.  I've had the pleasure of dining there.  Pretty good BBQ if I do say so.  I heard Melissa Cookston on The BBQ Central Show, and I was totally mesmerized by the fact she is working on breeding her own breed of hogs just for doing whole hog competitions.  I don't care if she didn't win the whole hog part, that folks is dedication pure and simple.  I'm doing good to make sure it is actually pork I'm cooking and not some mutant raccoon, but that's just me.  Greg Rempe did a great interview, and he makes my commutes on Tuesday and Wednesday a bit more tolerable.  I also believe he is a father of three.  With that, I salute all of you fathers out there.  It can't be easy to do one of the toughest jobs in the world.  I still remember my dad showing up at baseball practice, and he and mom sitting behind home plate each and every game.  Did I give him fits?  Of course I did.  I was his son, and I was supposed to do that.  At least, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.  I'm thankful to still have him, my grandfather, a great brother, a wonderful father-in-law, and a rockin' brother-in-law.  All of which are great fathers, and they seem to tolerate me....mostly.  Anyway, y'all take care and give your old man a break.  After all, Father's Day comes around only once a year.  Riley says, "Hello and shut the door.  What are we trying to do....air condition the whole neighborhood?"

Sunday, May 13, 2018

This Day In Which We Celebrate Mom and the Stretch Marks We Created.

So I'm sitting at the old computer again trying to cobble together some cohesive thoughts which, on a good day, can be a challenge let alone after a day of bobbing in a pool and enjoying some quality time with the in-laws.  I'm pooped.  I'm just plain old, worn out, pooped.  It was a great day though.  I consider myself Blessed beyond measure with the in-laws I have in my life.  They are kind, funny, warm, welcoming, and actually seem to enjoy having me around.  I would say it's the liquor that helps, but alas they are not partakers of the devil's brew.  Pity.  Anyway, on this Mother's Day I'm struck with many thoughts.  Obviously, I miss having my own mom around.  She went home to be with the Lord on August 10, 2014, so roughly 3 1/2 years ago, or as I call it "seems like yesterday and 50 years ago all at once."  There are many good things I could say about my mom.  For instance, "To the best of my knowledge, she never tried to overtly kill me or sell me to gypsies"; "Mom was great!  She never got too horribly mad if I left the toilet seat up....or wrapped the toilet bowl in saran wrap"; and "I always knew mom loved me and her family."  The hardest I ever saw her cry was the day she took me to the bus station to go to basic training.  I guess a lot of us can say the same things....maybe not the wrapping the toilet bowl in saran wrap thing or going to the military, but you know the important parts about not overtly trying to kill us, not selling us off to the first bidder.  You know, the important things.  In my case, I probably deserved a good killin' once or twice or more, but here I am pecking away on this keyboard while she redecorates Heaven.  God help Himself.  But I guess one of my fondest memories of mom was at the Tri-State BBQ Festival in Dothan, AL.  It was the year Kerry had reorganized the People's Choice to reflect a vote based upon how well each team fed the public with an additional category of "Most Welcoming Site".  We prepped for weeks collecting food boats, getting ideas, and dreaming of how we would finally win something other that the admiration of my followers for my hourly port-a-potty updates.  That year, we made lemonade, little brownies, pulled pork with optional sauce, and pieces of brisket.  Everyone loved what we put out.  Heck, I even had some grass clippings in the lemonade from the water hose.  Nice touch I thought as it surely reminded everyone of their water-hose-drinking youth.  We didn't win, but we had a blast, and mom was right there with us.  To her credit, mom didn't throat punch the lady that roamed into our site, came under the easy up, scanned the tables, only to ask, "Y'all got any left."  I did offer a remaining brownie.....and to shelter her from mom's piercing glare which was nice on my part I thought.  It was hot, I mean South Alabama hot and we were tired, but we had a blast.  Mom, ever aware of her appearance, helped us clean up and immediately went to filing her nails.  She was class incarnate.  We didn't win that year (shock of shocks) but we walked away with something more than a ribbon, trophy, or money....we left with memories that will hopefully never fade from my memory.  Mom continued her support on the BBQ trails always showing up to help clean up or at least show up for the awards.  No matter how well or poorly we placed, she was proud.  Many of the other teams got to know her, and I have been proud to get to know a few mothers of other teams like Forrest Dilmore's mom.  Some knew my mom, and one even knew my Grandmother Stone from Abbeville, AL.  Your mom was a sweet lady Ed.  That's how it is in BBQ.  Yes, we all want to win, but the reality is there can be only one 1st place, and all the other places are academic.  I like to think we all came away a little bit better because we chose to enjoy the time together and make something money could never buy....memories.  I can't say enough about my mother-in-law, and yes I pester her in my own way now.  No, the toilet seats are safe from getting saran wrapped.  She is a wonderful lady, and she and her husband gave me the greatest wife imaginable.  I can't thank them enough.  My mom gave me life, and I gave her stretch marks.   Seems like a fair trade in the end.  If you are fortunate enough to still have a mom, call her, go see her, tell her you love her.  I wish I could.  Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Hello."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Change: It Isn't Just for Underwear.

So I'm sitting at the old computer trying to figure out my current tax alternatives.  I have two viable yet differing options:  1) Practice my waltz for the federal prison prom or (2) cross the border to Mexico and open my own Uber business in Guadalajara called......Uber.  Looked it up, and yeah it's the same in Mexico as it is here.  Who knew?  Both options would require me to make a significant change in my life.  A life of learning how to make a shank and jailhouse hooch, or a life of learning more than 6 words in Spanish despite two years of it in high school and two semesters in college.  Neither is appealing, so I guess I better get busy livin'.  Anyway, this brings me to today's topic:  Change.  Two things I always say at least a million times a day:  1)  Don't exaggerate and (2) Change is inevitable but growth is optional.  Change is important but how does one know when one must make that change.  Sure, there are the easy ones like, "There is something warm and squishy in my shorts that wasn't there before a particularly violent sneeze.  Might ought to change my shorts" and the always tried-and-true, "My wife is mad at me.  I think I'll take back the matching pot and pan set I got her for our anniversary and get something a bit more jewelry oriented."  Easy right?  Sometimes it isn't so cut and dried.  Take competition BBQ and making changes midstream.  Any decent, or in my case mediocre at best, BBQ aficionado will tell you that consistency is the key.  I agree, but I also pose the following question, "Can and when is being too much a slave to consistency a bad thing?"   Think about it for a second, if you are consistent day-in and day-out in each and every competition and maybe your scores are OK with some decent placements, but because you are so tied to your style you never really make any advances.  So when do you decide to pull the trigger and change things up?  Here's a bit of free advice, I wouldn't do it in the middle of a competition.  Sure, you might get lucky and hit it out of the park, but the chances are more likely you will screw the proverbial pooch, and to be honest, no one really likes a pooch screwer.   Don't be a pooch screwer.  I do, however, recommend you apply the scientific method to any changes.  Things do evolve, and this definitely applies to the taste buds of judges.  There are always new techniques, new flavors, and new implements to alter the flavors of the BBQ you prepare, so you too must evolve.  Look what happened to the dinosaurs and the wishbone offense.  You evolve or die.  By judicious application of the scientific method, you have a control and an experiment.  The control is the way you have always done it compared to the experiment that has one element change.  You compare and move forward taking copious notes along the way.  By adding some double-blind taste testing, you can see if the changes are worth pursuing.  Kind of like life.  You get an opportunity to do something new and you have to decide the following, "Am I happy where I am with things, or do I apply a change and see what happens?"  Apply some prayer and the sound counsel of trusted friends and family, and you can at least have some good information with which to make a decision.  BBQ and life share a lot:  Both are only as good as you are willing to make it.  Anyway, y'all take care and Riley says, "Hello."       

Friday, February 2, 2018

Some Helpful Tips for a Little Lovin' on St. Valentine's Day.

Let me start by begging, nay, imploring you as I do each Valentine's Day:  No stuffed, cutesy, baby-talking, droopy-eyed, stuffed animals for the person you love, you want to love, you need to love, or love to watch through a window at 2:17 a.m. while the person sleeps.  No judgment but either way, please no stuffed animals.  With that out of the way, I want to say congratulations to Matt Barber of Hot Wachulas for his back-to-back perfect scores.  He does keep a high bar and the TOTY race interesting.  If this keeps up, it looks like it is going to be another foot race to the end.  With the crazy weather we have had in Florida, I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say I look forward to more comfortable days with cool or even cold nights.  Cold nights are good for what we collectively call lovin'.  So as everyone prepares for the day celebrating all things love related, I had a few suggestions to make the night extra special or terrifying.....your choice.  Feel free to use these as you see fit unless that way ends up in a restraining order in which case you're on your own.  Men, you have to set the mood, and what better way than with the sweet, soothing, sultry sounds of the mysterious crooner known as Barry White Sauce.  Granted, this Barry is not as widely known as THE Barry White; however, he is a huge hit in Northern Alabama where he can be found making hearts melt and loins loosen at most local watering holes/retirement centers.  Greatest hits available on 8-track and good old vinyl.  For those of you who prefer to fish at the pond of love at the annual family reunion, nothing sparks the embers of love like the hit, "If Lovin' You is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right."  Are you currently doing 10-15 years for a crime you didn't commit?  No problem as I've got you covered.  For those experiencing that unfortunate incarceration, nothing gets you ready for the prison prom like the classic, "Sleeping Single in a Single Cell."  With playlist set, we move on to the setting.  Here's a helpful tip from Grandpa's Pride BBQ, it would be a poor decision to light 328 candles in a 10 x 10 bedroom.  While candles are quite the mood enhancement for ooh la la, a fully involved conflagration and a visit from the local fire brigade does exemplify the term "coitus interruptus."  That is unless you're into getting hosed down and skin removed with a fire hose at 75 psi....again no judgments.   As for food di amore, you can't go wrong with chocolate dipped strawberries, Slim Jims, and Boone's Farm; however, if you want to veer off the beaten path and highlight your creativity and thus subconsciously communicate to the object of your affection your prowess and ability to provide, nothing says Hubba Hubba like anything cooked over open fire.  This hearkens back the primitive times when Ook was trying to bag and tag the lovely Gerta.  From Raccoon to Rib-eye steak, kill it and grill it.  Along those lines, nothing, and I mean nothing, drives the women wild like a little dab of liquid smoke behind one's ears.  Oh yeah.....that's it.  There are many important points I would like to see everyone take away from this article:  (1) Yes I am legally married and she married me willingly 19 years ago (2) Love should be celebrated every day of the year and not just on some day that is also known for one of the biggest gang hits of the Capone Era (3) Stalking and misunderstood Committed Love have a very, very thin line of legal delineation.  At least that's what a friend told me.  Anyway, y'all take care, and for the love of all things good and great in this world, please don't buy the stuffed animals, and Riley says hello.