Hootenanny Ribs

Hootenanny Ribs
3-2-1 rib perfection on my Traeger Pro 34 wood pellet grill

Friday, December 30, 2011

Smokin' Good Time

BBQ.  Barbecue.  Barbeque.  Bar-B-Q.
Smoking meats using indirect heat with charcoal and wood can be delicious no matter how you spell it.  Pork, beef, poultry, fish, mutton, even goat, venison, and wild game can all be smoked, barbecued, successfully and flavorful.  Methods vary as much as the meats that are chosen to be smoked.  And the cooking meat with fire or hot coals is as old as humanity.

Growing up in the South, Mecca for good BBQ, I learned at a young age that I really liked it.  East Tennessee is the crossroads for BBQ.  There is Memphis BBQ, Carolina BBQ (North AND South), Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky... all with different variations of mostly pork (western Kentucky is famous for mutton), different sauces and rubs, and that is just in the Southeast.  Kansas City and Texas are both big BBQ regions with their own distinct styles.  Then there is Hawaiian, Jamaican, Mexican, even Mongolian BBQ; all over the world man has established tasty methods of preparing and cooking meats and food items with smoke from various woods in order to obtain savory and filling meals.  Now everywhere traveled I endeavor to try the local BBQ to see the local methods and flavors;  maybe finding something that I can incorporate into my process.  It is my "Quest for Smoked Nirvana" to paraphrase a friend.

It takes patience and practice to become adept at the art of BBQ.  ANYONE can become accomplished at cooking good BBQ.  All it takes is a passion for savory smoked goodness.  Everyone has their favorite meat, favorite seasoning and rubs, favorite spices, favorite woods to use, favorite sauces.  The novice can be successful using a regular kettle charcoal grill.  That is how I learned.  Then bigger smokers come into use.  Mine is an Oklahoma Joe Smoker that was given to me by my brother-in-law.  That's right - GIVEN.  It took a backhoe to move the heavy son-of-a-gun!  After receiving that beautiful piece of equipment and getting it cleaned up and BBQ-ready, my cooking became quite a bit more serious.  Reading BBQ manuals and blogs, asking friends their BBQ methods, learning from some who showed me the ropes on good rubs and preparation - all of this helped me become somewhat of an amateur pit master.  It is gratifying and enjoyable to cook, nay BBQ, good meat, enjoy some good Blues music and some cold adult beverages while my masterpieces slowly cook, then share the goodness with my family and friends.  It is an art when done correctly. 

BBQ is social... and it is in our DNA.   That's why I have a smokin' good time when I BBQ.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How I found the blues (or did the Blues find me?)

Many people have asked me when and how I discovered the Blues.  It was a roundabout journey that began when I was young and discovered that music was something interesting and something to enjoy.  Growing up the the Seventies, I was  inundated with AOR (album-oriented rock) on FM radio.  The music of Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foghat, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, AC/DC,  Jimi Hendrix, Cream and many others filled my ears with wonderful and powerful big music.  Little did I know that much of that music was Blues-based; I just knew that I liked it.  Only straying for a brief period of time to Punk and some New Wave, my music always seemed to be that genre now called Classic Rock.
Then in 1984, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee; record stores all over the place. (Yes, those 12 inch vinyl discs that are now being rediscovered by my kids.)  Used records, new records, lots of clubs with live music, a subscription to Rolling Stone: I was living the college music scene, taking it all in.  Then I read a brief article in Rolling Stone about an up and coming guitar slinger from Texas: Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Cool.  Had to check this guy out.  I love good guitar players.  The louder the better at that time. A jaunt down to Cat's Records on Cumberland Avenue (The Strip to all familiar with the University of Tennessee.)  Ask if they have any of this new guy, Stevie Vaughan or whatever his name is.  Yes, they have his new album "Texas Flood" - bought it, took it back to the apartment to give it a listen.

Bam! Wow! Holy ____!

The first sound of  Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Love Struck Baby" blasted off from the needle of my turntable through my rather large speakers to send a sound shock wave through my body.  Stunned.  Mouth agape.  An epiphany.  This was it!  This, THIS beautiful powerful passionate surging music that filled my ears, head, body and Soul with bliss and fulfillment - THIS was IT!  I listened to the next song.  Still loving it.  The next?  Yep.  The entire album, played over and over again, for several hours I'm certain.  I had found my music and for my young mind it was like sex - I had to have more. 

Another trip the next day to Cat's Record store.
"Do y'all have anything else like this?"
Store clerk, "Yes, have you heard of Albert Collins?"

Purchased Albert Collins' monumental Alligator Records release "Ice Pickin'" and was introduced to the world of Blues, a world that was waiting for me to discover, a journey that I am still taking today, discovering new artists and old alike, taking it all in, into my bloodstream and straight to my Soul.

That is how I found the Blues, or the Blues found me.