Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Peace, Love & Barbecue came in. I am doing the happy dance.

I had been waiting for "The Barbecue Bible" by Steven Raichlen to come in the mail.

It came.

Oh yes. I am a happy camper. Well, I don't actually like to camp. I always thought that was a form of torture designed by my parents to ruin my teenhood. I was the oldest, so we did not hit that circuit until I was over the age of "getting it" I think. The main things I remember about camping were that all the bugs ate me up, it rained and my baby sister put her feet on the tent causing leaks, and the camp stew gave me the runs. Oh well. I now have Scouts and must do this camping thing from time to time but still think it is not what it's cracked up to be--that sleeping under the stars. I like a bed, a pillow, and a real toilet. I especially like the toilet. Women were not designed to go behind trees.

Anyway, my new book looks interesting. It will take me a while to soak it up. It says "over 500 recipes" on the front, and it has 556 pages. Yep. That is looking like a bible or a doorstop. I may still be looking it over when the maker comes back for us all. It does appear to have everything I might even think about doing outside (that is legal) and includes all the ways every sort of person might barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ. I am going to be most busy.

My current favorite barbecue book is Peace, Love and Barbecue. I do need to warn you that you're looking at bbq as in smoking if you go with this book. So, if you're using a grill, then you will be in for a shock if you buy Peace and Love. It does tickle my fancy, because it has all kinds of cool stories, and I'm a sucker for good stories. That is my mountain heritage coming to the surface. I wouldn't even care if I ever smoked meat at all. I'd read the book. It's that neat. But, it's not a cookbook for grillers if you lean that way. It does look like Barbecue Bible would work for those grilling but also for most other outdoor cooking types. I'll have to get back with you all on that. But, it looks like a good bet (unless you like pictures). This is not a photo cooking book. You need some experience and/or imagination.

One of my editors sent me an email today. She said that my Beer Butt Chicken article was getting some notice. Seems some discussion group was linking that one up and talking about trying out the recipe. It appeared to be a British group as they were talking about shoving the beer can up the bum, and I don't think many folks on this side of the pond talk about bums. I could be wrong on that, but I just don't hear that around the States. Anyway, some of the women thought you had to go out and buy special equipment. NOPE. A can of beer, a chicken, and a grill (with a lid). This is not rocket science. But, it's sure good eating. It's hard to beat beer butt chicken.

I am thinking I should check again on that message board and tell them that they don't need to cut the can. Someone said something about cutting the beer can in half. Unless your chickens are really scrawny (like bitties), I sure don't see doing that. You drink the extra beer. Then you try cutting a can. You are going to end up at the ER. This sounds like a safety problem. Those English folks. They are making this too hard. They don't need to do a thing to the can. Just shove it in.

Now I will probably go down in history as the Beer Butt Chicken lady. I can just see my tombstone--Here lies Cyndi . . . she wrote lots of articles . . . but she is best known for telling the world that she sticks a can of beer where the sun don't shine up a chicken. The family will all be most proud I am sure (not). And, most of the rest of them don't even buy beer. Of course, most of the relatives don't ride a Harley either. But, that's another story for another day.

I must get myself to bed. The only reason to stay up way past dark is to watch a smoker or for a really fun party. Neither is happening here this evening. So, I will grab my Barbeque Bible, put on my flannels, and call it an evening.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can you be a barbeque master and skinny too?

We had a church luncheon today--soup and salad with mega desserts. If I can't be at a barbecue, then a southern pot luck is the next best thing.

I went over to say "hi" to one of the dear church ladies. The first thing she says is, "Have you put on a lot of weight lately?" Hum. Is she searching for a conversation topic or spoiling for a fight? I kind of mumble, "Yeah probably." Really, what can you say in such a situation? This should end the topic I'd think, but she continues with more commentary. "Yeah. I looked over and thought, 'She sure has gained some weight,' then you stood up, and I thought, 'Not really.' I think your face is just puffy." This, of course, made me feel ever so much better.

In the south, folks are typically polite to a fault EXCEPT when it comes to weight. I have, in fact, added some pounds in the last 4 or 5 years, and it's rare to go out without someone making this keen observation. These are people who would probably never dream of telling you that you had broccoli stuck between your teeth or toilet paper caught on the bottom of your shoe. But, put on some weight and they sure like to talk about that and not behind your back.

It's not like I'm at risk of breaking the scales which I refuse to have in the house. I wear a 11 or 13 in Levi's and usually need a 14 in shirts due to being busty as they call it around here. Of course, the weight loss commercial today featured a woman who was so thrilled to have gone from an apparently gross size 10 to a 4 and was feeling absolutely fabulous. All I can say is that it's a good thing Marilyn Monroe didn't come of age in this era of anorexia as normal. I think she was a size 12 or 14, and she didn't have to apologize for it either.

I love to cook, and I love to eat. There would be something a bit suspect about someone who wrote about grilling and smoking and wouldn't eat the goods and was skinny as a bone. A body would have to wonder if she (or he) really did cook up good grub.

Then again, it's not much fun to deal with the "comments" when you're not the same size you were in 7th grade. I'm tempted to say that I have some terminal disease and the medications make me swell when someone asks about my weight. Might make them squirm a bit. But, then I'd probably get something terminal for telling fibs. So, I'm still just saying, "Yeah. Uh-huh" and then trying to redirect the conversation.

I told my guys not to bring me anything back from BoJangles today. Now, that's some good fast food eating. If you've never tried BoJangles, then you've got to check them out--spicy fried chicken, fluffy mashed potatoes, zippy dirty rice. Yum. The fellows wanted to know if I was feeling sick or something. When I finally confessed that I'd been called a fatso at church, they said to ignore it and enjoy my food and the ballgame. Apparently it would put a damper on their meal for me to skip. So, I had a wing and some sides and called it good.

Maybe I'll look at some lower calorie, lower fat recipes for the grill. Maybe not. I guess it depends on how many people tell me I look fat tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What the heck is barbeque, barbecue, BBQ?

I grew up with a strong sense of barbeque. Barbeque was, of course, slow cooked pork served on a bun with vinegar based sauce. I didn't question this "fact of life," because it was "fact" in this area. If you asked for barbeque, you knew what you were getting.

The first time I questioned my definition was when I moved to Texas. I ordered barbeque. The waitress brought out a huge plate of beef ribs smothered in tomato sauce.

I said, "What's this?"

The waitress said, "Barbecue. Wasn't that what you ordered?"

I covered well (I think). I said, "Yep. And, it sure looks good."

This was over 20 years ago, and I remember it like yesterday. The ribs were good, but they were ribs to my way of thinking. This was a date, and I would not order ribs on a date. They are a might messy. I try to order neat meals on a date. No spaghetti. No ribs. Not when you're trying to look cool and impress a guy. I had my work cut out for me and quite by surprise.

I don't think I ordered BBQ again the entire time I lived in Texas. It's not that I don't like Texas BBQ beef ribs, but I do like to know what's coming when I order food. I did learn to say "OK" to putting my stuff in a "sack." Around here, a sack is a big burlap sack for potatoes. In Texas, they just mean a paper bag. I turned down sacks for a while until I figured out they just wanted to put my purchases in a paper bag. I was thinking they ran out of bags there for a bit and didn't want a sack to store in my small apartment. After a while, I got that down. But, I neverdid catch on to barbeque that didn't come neatly on a bun. When I saw the word barbecue in Texas, I was quite confused. Kansas further added to my confusion, but that's another story.

To further complicate matters, some of my northern friends (years later) invited me to a barbecue. I was thinking pig again, and they had hamburgers. Whew. That was odd (back then). I finally figured out that my northern buddies called anything grilled out barbeque. They were using the word as a verb (what I'd call grilling) while I used it as a noun (chopped pork on a bun). At least, those burgers were on a bun and not messy to eat like the Texas BBQ ribs. I love grilled burgers and cook up some great ones. I've got some great tips for burgers if that's your idea of BBQ.

Now I understand that barbeque is a mixed bag. And, I'm old and worldly enough that I'll flat out ask what folks are talking about. I do love all kinds of barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ. I do, however, like to know what to expect. It is rather a shock to think I'm getting pork on a bun and then to get ribs or to think I'm going to a pig roast and find out that it's going to be hot dogs on the grill. On the flip side, I know to let folks know (from other parts of the country) that if they are in these parts and ordering barbeque that they'll be getting chopped pork with slaw served on a bun or white bread. It's fun, in fact, to not say and watch the expressions, but I like to be a kind person. Our local barbeque is rather an acquired taste I'd say, so I'm usually one to step up to the plate and explain the local customs.

Folks in the south take barbecue pretty seriously and don't play around with the words. If you tell a southerner they're getting barbeque, then they are going to be shocked if you give them ribs or grilled chicken. They aren't trying to be difficult. They are just being southern.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy Martin Luther King Day

I had the day off work. That's always a good thing!

I spent some time looking over my favorite barbeque book Peace, Love & Barbecue. It's all about smoking meat and the folks who do that. There are as many stories as recipes, so it's fun to sit and read. I tried one of the sauce recipes this weekend--Lexington style BBQ sauce. It sounded too bland with only ketchup and vinegar as the base, so I added a little Texas Pete and Louisiana Hot Sauce. That was a real hit with our Boston butt smoked on the Smokey Mountain by Weber. That's one of our best buys of 2005. We'd been wanting a smoker for a long time and were thrilled to get that.

Our most recent outdoor cooking toy was a turkey fryer. I was a little hesitant on that, since I'd heard they are pretty dangerous. The Masterbuilt electric has a UL rating and also an auto shut off, so I felt better about that. It really does make the best turkey I've ever tasted. I didn't know what I was missing until we fried one up. I don't think we'll be baking the big birds any more. That also frees up oven space to do the other foods for a feast. Gotta love that.
Tomorrow I go back to work. The boys have the day off and also Wednesday. Hope they don't make too big a mess at home while I'm gone. I won't hold my breath though.

Welcome to the Barbeque Master Blog!

I have been cooking outdoors as long as I can remember. My family grilled out a lot. Both my brothers are in Boy Scouts. So, we camped and made all sorts of interesting foods wrapped around sticks, dumped in Dutch Ovens, or even sizzled up on the camp stove.

Now I have two boys of my own. They're in Scouts too. Though I'd always done a lot of outdoor cooking, I began trying out even more techniques and recipes, so I could help the troop with the cooking part of Scouting. They'd catch fish. I'd try out various grilled and Dutch Oven recipes for fish.

We even built a fire pit in the back yard. That was simple enough. We simply dug a hole and surrounded it with rocks. The pit is high enough to add a grate for outdoor cooking over wood, and it's also perfect for Dutch Oven cooking.

I'm a freelance writer on the side, so a blog seemed like a natural extension to my scribblings. I write for national newspapers, magazines, and for corporate sites and I also have my own web site - Yes You Can Grill.