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View Full Version : the barbecue enthusiast is a morlock, a throwback, a creature of the primordial past


BrooklynQ
01-06-2006, 05:25 PM
I found this on Slashfood.com. It's an interesting take on competitions from the same author who reviewed NYC/Long Island BBQ for Newsday.


http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15110&highlight=newsday

http://www.nynewsday.com/impulse/barsandclubs/nyc-barstory0607,0,1411082.story?coll=nyc-music-utility

Torpid Smoke

Posted Aug 23rd 2005 3:06PM by Josh Ozersky (http://slashfood.com/bloggers/josh-ozersky)


http://www.slashfood.com/images/2005/08/bigdaddypic3.jpg The Glutton Who Got Too Much of a Good Thing was, you may remember, a favorite theme of anthology TV shows back in the day. A gambler would find himself in a hellish casino where every slot machine pull was a jackpot; a promiscuous cad was surrounded by willing bimbos, and felt only repulsion. Evenually, some such figure as Mr. Roarke or Rod Serling would come in at the end to underline the moral. But I never bought it. How could anyone get sick of a good thing? The shows struck me, sitting there stoned and alone, as tendentious – as if they were trying to reassure audiences who were likely never to see any such a surfeit of pleasure. Sitting there with my bong and a box of Old English Garlic Rounds, I was sure I had a bottomless appetite for pleasure, if only I could prove it.


I gamely tried recently at the Grill Kings New York State BBQ Championship, held at Heckscher State Park in East Islip. But I failed. Maybe the moralists were right. I smell like smoke, taste of smoke, am bloated and diseased from smoke: if they were to cut a slice of me, I'm convinced that I would have a pink ring. And that’s not a good thing: like power or pudding, barbecue is a dynamic, orgiastic pleasure. It yields all of its massive pleasure at the first bite. Satisfiedly grunting, forehead veins athrob, the barbecue enthusiast is a morlock, a throwback, a creature of the primordial past. So when you start eating barbecue in purse-lipped tastes, accepting amuse-bouche samples, you’re in trouble. Add in much magisterial nodding, and the mincing, specialized vocabulary of recipe development, and I never want to eat barbecue again.


Isn’t that sad? And it’s not just the fact that my team, Big Island Barbecue of Rego Park, lost. Sure, the judging is an idiotic process, with almost no allowance given to the prejudices and misperceptions of the judges – usually unfortunates harvested from city drunk tanks. No, it wasn’t losing that leeched the pleasure of barbecue but the whole overload. (This past weekend, at the Hudson Valley Rib Off, we won Grand Champion, and the event was still a buzz-kill.) By the standards of competition bbq, both New York State contests were only medium-sized. A small city of tents was erected, each with its own external hearth, a bomb-shaped entity with smoke coming out of one end. Some were long black B-52 blockbusters, the kind with "Dear John" written on one end; others were squat plutonium reactors, sealed with multipe O-rings. "I can cook for three thousand people on my rig," one venerable competitor told me. But why would you want to? Another team passed the time watching a 40" plasma TV set – precisely the kind of hillbilly opulence to which barbecue is supposedly the antidote. Everything at the contest seemed decadent.And I, too, had caught the contagion. I was caught up in competition, and the racing rationalization that is market culture. I was caught up in the competition nexus; barbecue was the means to an end. Was this then the thing that had chased away so much shame and solititude in my childhood? Though it had cost me at least a week’s respite from the sustaining love of barbecue, I knew I had learned some kind of lesson.

Barbecue – low-tech, unteachable, obtainable only through the slow rhythms of agricultural life – was never meant to be amplified like this. What was this place, some some kind of strategic hamlet? Or what? At contests like this across the country, an arms race has already begun, as the competitors seek more exotic spices, more unnatural chemical tenderizers, more technologically elaborate means of cooking. Chef Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May USA, a classically-trained cook with intellectual energy to burn, has upped the ante, winning the Iowa Barbquelossal with a perfect 180 score for his pork ribs and their peach-nectar accented sauce. Peach nectar? I’ll admit the sauce is out of this world. But sauce should be an afterthought to barbecue, like the reverse-cowgirl position in copulation. Slowly-smoked barbecue, exquisitely moist and pungent and fragrant with the perfume of melting fat and hardwood smoke, is all I never needed to transport me away from the pain of consciousness. And now it isn’t enough.

I don’t think I’m alone in this quandry. There was a lot of unhappiness going around at Grill Kings. For one thing, guys are losing money. The entire competitve barbcue circuit is based on the love and mystique of slow-smoking. Almost none of the competitors here – Dirty Dick’s Legless Wonders, the Pit Posse, the Grills Gone Wild, the Two Fat Polocks, Ma’s Q Crew, or the aburdly named Sir Sauce a Lot – even broke even. They all spent two days frying on an asphalt parking lot on one of the summer’s hottest days, tending fires – fires! – and keeping watch over hundreds of pounds of meticulously fabricated, trimmed, rubbed, injected, and massaged meat. And then their final product was judged in secret by a bunch of anonymous yokels. "Look, you can’t control the judging," said my friend Robbie Richter, of Big Island, philosophically. "I can only control my ribs. But there must be a reason why the same names keep coming out on top in every contest."

Really? I was unconvinced. But then I wasn’t going broke, or straining my marriage, to get it done. Still, as long as I could wander around all day, nibbling on Adam Perry Lang’s korubuta pork chops, or the crusty outer surface of Dirty Dick’s vibrant pork butt, I felt everything would be OK. Though unnaturally sated, I enjoyed talking to Dirty Dick’s stoner niece, or chatting through the night with friendly, heavy-set Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ. Lampe, a former Chicago truck driver, was receiving a huge amount of publicity these days, and told me that he was beginning to be oppressed by spectators. "This one guy asked while I was boxing up [preparing his entry] if he could take pictures of me slicing brisket. I said, ‘will you get the hell out of here?’ I had three minutes until turn-in time." Lampe was appalled, as most of the barbecuers are, by the effrontery of spectators, who invariably show up with their hands out just as the weekend-long process is being compressed into its descisive final seconds.

But say this for the spectators: at least they still loved barbecue. They had been spared the endless, talmudic discourse on flavor profiles, the comparison shopping of different smokers, and the interminable debate about the effect of wrapping in tinfoil – the so-called "texas crutch" mocked by Kansas City "baron of barbecue" Paul Kirk. No, they didn’t know anything but barbecue – but then neither did the judges. And they the tablespoon of shredded pork butt they managed to steal was all the barbecue they would taste today, and they would savor it accordingly. It was Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, the communal pit vs the food court. Barbecue, now as always, favored the former. But there I was, trapped in the latter, sitting out on Long Island with a digital stopwatch and a taped photocopy of the Kansas City Barbecue Society garniture rules. I was a Hollow Man, fit only to pour commodified barbecue sauce into; but enough of me remained to mourn the loss.

ZILLA
01-06-2006, 05:50 PM
Thanks, that was good. I can see that happening. It's also nice to get a take from a guy thats not from Texas. The most overbearing BBQers I ever met are from my state, Texas. I really love to cook and cookin for others is my favorite. I guess if my best efforts were to be judged by one bite instead of by an evening at my home, at my table, in the company of my family which so many have enjoyed I might get to feel the same way. To have your passion reduced to one bite...Man that could suck. I guess thats why Comps don't interest me.
We eat dinner at 6:00 or so and anyone is welcome.:-D

chad
01-06-2006, 07:02 PM
Nice, satirical, article.:cool:

He just doesn't "get it"...and to a competitor or judge that's been around the block a few times...he's a whiny butt!:twisted:

At least he got a printable quote from Ray!:eek:

ZILLA - my passion for que is never measured by the amount of meat I taste. As a judge I'm there to do a job - not gorge myself! As a competitor I'm there to convince the yokels that my ribs, pork, brisket, and chicken are they best they tasted that day.

Competition isn't for everyone...

backyardchef
01-06-2006, 07:07 PM
Well, if the judges come from the drunk tank, then maybe a bourbon glaze is a good idea....I'm not a comp. cooker, but there's a kind of reverse snobbery to this article, I think.

rookiedad
01-06-2006, 08:41 PM
this kind of reminds me of www.bobinga.com. there are points to be made on both sides of this arguement. i understand how the down home q guys feel because bbq has its roots there, but i also understand the competitors(which i am not yet, but will one day be) and the thrill of being able to elevate the pedestrian to the sublime. what is great bbq anyway. in a recent thread Dr. bbq stated that it would be hard to eat a whole plate of his ribs due to the richness intense spice, and that it was all about the first bite. well great bbq is food afterall, and your supposed to be able to eat a bunch of great food, right? it reminds me of the artist who makes sculpture from plumbing supply. it looks great, but can you take a poop in it?
phil

ZILLA
01-06-2006, 09:50 PM
Chad - My point was not to trash the judge or anyone else on the comp circuit nor do I think the guy was either. I think what the guy was commenting on what the comps have become. I know that comps are not for everyone and this guy just happened to realise it that day, and thats a bummer. If the BBQ circuit turns someone off to BBQ because of it's own gravity thats a bummer too. I thought that a comp was supposed to be a fun event and maybe it's become something less. Just my impression but maybe it's become "Big Business" and the friendly nature of the event is gone. Some folks get pretty serious over it. Once money enters the picture the scenery tends to change.

The_Kapn
01-06-2006, 10:19 PM
If I understand this guy--he is a writer. Paid to produce words. He has expressed his opinion and is welcome to it. I actually agree with or understand a lot of what he has to say.

As to BBQ comps--they are "fun".
People compete for all kinds of reasons.
I personnaly have developed and worked with some great friends since we started. I also want to be "one higher" than them in the awards--afterall it is a friggin' competetion.

But, at the higher levels, they are no more "amateur" than the Olympics.
It costs a ton of money to compete. Some folks have deep pockets and some don't. Some have sponsors, some don't. It all works out.

The "Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat" is very real--been there, done that!
I vote for "The Thrill of Victory"!

Due to the nature of any rapidly going sport, you have a lag between "judging nirvana" and the reality of getting enough people together to even try to judge an event.

It is all in flux.

And, yes, there are subtle differences between entries as they are now and the way they used to be. Like anything else, it evolves.

Having cooked with DRBBQ and Kevin (HomeBBQ), I can tell you that perfection is attainable. It is a lofty goal, but can be done.
It is all about PRIDE.

And that is what competeting is all about when ya strip away the money, the trophies, and the "hoop-la".

Pride..(and as Myron Mixon of Jack's Old South says--"getting paid"!)

My vent for 2006.

TIM

BBQchef33
01-07-2006, 12:34 AM
barbecue enthusiast is a morlock, a throwback, a creature of the primordial past



WTF does that mean??

Words.. to m-a-n-y w-o-r-d-s

to m-a-n-y B-I-G w-o-r-d-s

bbq folk dont talk like that. No wonder he didnt like it. The mans gotta learn simple stuff, like scratchin and burpin and fartin. Then he can relate. :mrgreen:

Sawdustguy
01-07-2006, 02:22 AM
I think he may be referring to our enjoyment of meat. Hey, at least this buffoon mentioned my BBQ team.

chad
01-07-2006, 10:54 AM
Chad - My point was not to trash the judge or anyone else on the comp circuit nor do I think the guy was either. I think what the guy was commenting on what the comps have become. I know that comps are not for everyone and this guy just happened to realise it that day, and thats a bummer. If the BBQ circuit turns someone off to BBQ because of it's own gravity thats a bummer too. I thought that a comp was supposed to be a fun event and maybe it's become something less. Just my impression but maybe it's become "Big Business" and the friendly nature of the event is gone. Some folks get pretty serious over it. Once money enters the picture the scenery tends to change.

ZILLA: I understand what you were saying...and I agree with Tim's comments. If you don't compete or don't wish to compete (universal YOU!) you won't understand our position any more than folks understand how an unsponsored guy can run on the stock car or drag racing circuit -- lot's and lot's of money, risks, and pain trying to run with the guys with very deep pockets...you do it 'cause you love the "sport" and because you can, on occassion, place higher than some of the top guns!!:cool:

It's competition!! In no way does it reduce the enjoyment of backyard cooking or the enjoyment of BBQ!!

The BBQ circuit can no more turn off anyone from eating que than the NASCAR or NHRA circuit can turn off anyone from driving a certain brand of car -- the reality is that competition cooking and competition driving are performed at a different level than backyard cooking or street driving -- it's just that BBQ looks "easier" to attain!!:biggrin:

And phil (rookiedad): Que at the top competition level is different from backyard que - just like pipe art is different from a crapper! It's produced for one single moment in time, the judging, and aimed at that "one bite" - the judges know this (very few of us eat extra que at a contest) and pace themselves accordingly.:eek:

I didn't intend to get into the "philosophy" or "ZEN" of competition - we got through this at least once a year...and manage to suck at least one or two new folks over to the "dark side".:wink:

backyardchef
01-07-2006, 11:20 AM
On a different note, I think the article hints at something even more deep than that, Dave. There's a notion that once removed from what Josh (author) calls an "agricultural" relationship, bbq ceases to exist. If it's not some (excuse the terms) "fat, sweaty hilbilly" cooking a fresh-slaughtered pig under the shade of a tree on his pappy's farm (which all sounds good to me), it aint 'que. I hear that, but I can't agree. That's just a philosophy, not a cooking concept.

It's, a (ugh) romantic, view of barbeque that I appreciate, a reaction against the 'mainstreaming' of the sport, of the essence of the food, which at it's heart is 'simple' food, a pure thing, that is being diluted to some degree, but if you still want that experience of primal bbq, it's still out there, although it is disappearing, like the delta blues, the jewish deli, and the old school italian joint on the corner, you just have to know where to look for it.

Sorry that wasn't about competition.

backyardchef
01-07-2006, 11:24 AM
I didn't intend to get into the "philosophy" or "ZEN" of competition - we got through this at least once a year...and manage to suck at least one or two new folks over to the "dark side".:wink:

Oh. I think that's what I just did. :eek:

Sorry.

Maybe my tag should be 'Most definitely knows what a fatty is. :wink:

racer_81
01-07-2006, 12:30 PM
WTF does that mean??

Words.. to m-a-n-y w-o-r-d-s

to m-a-n-y B-I-G w-o-r-d-s

bbq folk dont talk like that. No wonder he didnt like it. The mans gotta learn simple stuff, like scratchin and burpin and fartin. Then he can relate. :mrgreen:

[/b]

Don't forget pointing and grunting.

kcquer
01-07-2006, 01:26 PM
I totally get this guy (the author). Post breakfast time through last turn in on judging day is about as far removed from the peaceful solitude of cranking up the pit (at home) to start a brisket a 3am as it gets. Sunrise on a sweat shirt morning, sipping your third cup of coffee as sweet blue wafts from the stack along with the aroma of slowly rendering beef fat is a truly beautiful thing. Turn in morning at a contest is at best, organized chaos.

I had wanted to do a lot of contests last year and fate had other plans. Having a bit more experience with the organized chaos, my enthusiasm is significantly diminished. I still want to do a couple of events where there will be other Brothers to visit with but that's it. The big smiles between greasy lips of well fed friends, neighbors and family is the only trophy I need.

BrooklynQ
01-07-2006, 02:03 PM
I think the guy just doesn't understand the passion involved. I got into this because I love to Q. I really do. It relaxes me, it intrigues me, it irritates me and it soothes me. (Sounds like my wife and kids) It calls me in the night and on cold winter days. Light my fire baby!

I've worked for years on my Q. I've taken my passion beyond my friends, neighbors and relatives. They have their own conceptions of BBQ and I have surpassed them (He says, sooo modestly.) They like/love what I cook but don't understand the subtleties and nuances. They don’t understand why I would cook 3 racks of ribs, each with different rubs composed of similar seasonings and try to determine which is best, when I have a tried and true recipe that everyone loves. (Just being modest again)

But now I want to be among others who share my passion. I want to cook with other people who know and understand the allure of the smoke. To this Brooklyn boy, there was no other place to go besides the competition circuit. I was seeking my kind and that was the only place I could find them. That's why I got involved in competition. I compete for completely selfish reasons. I'm there to please me. I want to hone my craft and improve my art.

To me, I've joined a group of artists. Not painters but artists. These are the people who have talent, passion and desire to create and mentor. These are the folks who understand and celebrate the subtleties and nuances. These are the folks that can help me take my art to the next level. That's where I think most of the competitive BBQ folks are.

Not all of us are great artists. But all of us share the passion. Some will be rewarded others not. Is there a commercial end or financial aspect to competing, there sure is; just as there is in the art world. Some artists flourish financially while others starve.



It's just the way of the world and to someone who doesn't share the passion will never understand.

rbsnwngs
01-07-2006, 03:39 PM
BQ

that was beautifuly said

jgh1204
01-07-2006, 05:56 PM
You have to admit that a 40" plasma in a rig is a bit over the top for bbq.

The_Kapn
01-07-2006, 06:10 PM
You have to admit that a 40" plasma in a rig is a bit over the top for bbq.
Only if you can not afford a 60" playing "Debbie does BBQ"--http://bbq-brethren.com/forum/images/smilies/icon_smile_big.gif

Some creature comforts, such as an airconditioned place to grab some sleep really help the team compete.

Where is the limit????--all in the $$$$$$ http://bbq-brethren.com/forum/images/smilies/icon_smile_big.gif

TIM

BrooklynQ
01-07-2006, 08:13 PM
Ahh, air conditioning. If you ever see Zacks BBQ or Front Street Smokehouse at a comp, try to get next to them. They always have an airconditioned tent!

CharlieBeasley
01-09-2006, 09:29 AM
Interesting article but better picture. This appears to be the original Dreamland which I managed to find once when I thought I had made a wrong turn and saw about 30 dogs trying to get into a dumpster. The gentleman or his close relative informed us we had two choices half or whole slab and with or without bread! Great Ribs but they appear to have gone chain and expensive in Montgomery with new and fancy digs compared to the original.