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February 2, 2011

BB Quest!

Filed under: American Food,Barbeque — raincoaster @ 11:37 pm
Oh jeez, there goes the party

Oh jeez, there goes the party

I’m back! Didja miss me?

During my recent and entirely (I assure you) involuntary hiatus from food and beverage products of a kind which are not delivered via intravenous drip, there was one thing and one thing alone which I craved, and I craved it both morning and night, at noon and at the witching hour, and indeed at every moment in between. Yes, it seems that a mandated cessation from oral gratification of the most basic kind has a predictable, and inescapable result.

BBQ craving.

The nurses tell me this isn’t a surprise to them. The dieticians told me nothing, because if they were in the business of paying attention to patients, they’d be providing better food, wouldn’t they? You sam hill bet they would. But no matter how many sucrose-based, saline-encrusted chemicals they pump into your arm, they can’t deliver taste or satisfaction. Curious, though, that I craved protein the entire time; I wasn’t exactly working out the whole time.

Which reminds me of my friend Christi, who used to live in North Carolina, home to Duke University, which boasts the most advanced obesity-research center in the world, ringed entirely by BBQ restaurants. She walked into one once, asked “What kind of meat is it?” and was told, “Barbeque.” That, apparently, settles that. Ah, the mysteries of American culture.

All of which is just so much preamble to the question: What can you tell me about good old American barbeque? I went out today to Vera’s, “Vancouver’s best burgers,” specifically to satisfy my craving for saucy, meaty goodness (the burlesque shows don’t open till 7 around my hood) and was, to say the least, disappointed. There was slime. There was meat. But there was no piquancy. There was no smokiness. There was no detectable level of carboniferious goodness. Ou sont les scorch marks d’antan?

I understand that in some esoteric enclaves such as San Antonio and North Carolina, BBQ is something of a religion with its own fractured family tree of orthodoxies. As I wouldn’t dream of stepping on anyone’s orthodoxies, I’m wondering if any of you are secret or not so secret acolytes, and if you wouldn’t mind enlightening us.

Besides, I’m too damn lazy to Google it.


  1. Welcome back, raincoaster? Miss you? Your faithful missed you like nobody’s business. A day without a salty, crackling line from you is a day without sinful pleasures like, to give only one example, Tyrell’s sea salt and black pepper potato chips.

    As for BBQ belief systems, dry BBQ, like other activities best enjoyed wet, is not the path to true pleasure. Mrs. Henry has a quick and easy BBQ recipe that can’t be bettered:

    Slowly bake ribs in a covered braising pot. Let them cool. Paint them with a simple mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Then reheat. (Rubbing the ribs the night before in a mixture of brown sugar, cumin, dry mustard and the like imparts a different flavor, yes, but not in the end a better BBQ experience.)

    Comment by Mr. Henry — February 3, 2011 @ 4:46 am

  2. Peckinpah is pretty good. At right beside Vera’s.

    Comment by Degan — February 3, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  3. What you need is the Ottawa Rib Festival. In Vancouver. And right now.

    However, Ottawa’s Rib Festival in June brings rib sauce makers from all over North America to participate in competition and sell their ribs (well, the ones they cook) to Ottawa and a heckuvalot of civil servants (since the festival takes place right downtown, and passes by many departments of the Government of Canada).

    It’s a lot of fun, very tasty, and more barbeque than your stomach can handle, at least in one day.

    Comment by Jelly — February 3, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  4. Well, I might try to get out to that. I am related to a metric shit-tonne of Ottawannians, and in fact my ancestors gave up part of their sheep farm (along with five other families) to make the land on which to build the Parliament buildings. If that isn’t worth a VIP Media pass to a rib festival, I don’t know what is.

    I must confess that, much as I like dryish honey-garlic ribs, they’re not what I consider barbeque. The real thing IS sloppy, it’s tomato-ey, and it demands the sacrifice of at least one animal with bifurcated hooves.

    Now, pork or beef?

    Comment by raincoaster — February 3, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

  5. The question of BBQ in the Carolinas is subject to geography and shotgun gauge. Firstly, pork… cooked slowly over a wood (oak) fire. (screw that charcoal, gas, electric crap). The pitmaster is a revered and select group of culinary royalty. Secondly, Eastern Carolina sauce is vinegar based. Western Carolina is a mixture of vinegar and tomato based. Then, if we must, South Carolina has an interesting mustard based sauce. Any and all of the above should be served with coleslaw, hushpuppies, and possibly baked beans. The best BBQ is not found in chains or elegant establishments but in unassuming dives in out of the way spots or fire department fund raisers. The disadvantages of these establishments is the lack of alcoholic libations which is why getting plates to go is so popular.

    Comment by Jennie — February 4, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  6. I should add that if (for some demented or medical reason) alcohol is not needed or desired, copious amounts of sweet iced tea is usuallly served at these establishments. When I say sweet, I mean potentially diabetes causing, ADHD inducing one cup of sugar per quart sweet tea. OH! I forgot that chicken can be substituted for pork for non-swine eating folks. As far as beef… that is for steaks and hamburgers.

    Comment by Jennie — February 4, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  7. Mr Henry, you are as always the personification of chivalry. My liver and I are better people for knowing you.

    Degan, several people recommended Peckinpah, and I didn’t go only because a) it was too scenester for the way I am dressing in between hospital visits b) I wanted to save money. Foolishly. And then Vera’s charged me $17.

    Comment by raincoaster — February 4, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  8. Jennie, tea is a godsend when you’re overheated, so I can quite see it with the BBQ. I am, however, quite shocked to see vinegar used as a cooking ingredient in the South, and I’ll tell you why.

    My mother was in Georgia once, and she ordered fries. When they came, she asked for vinegar. The waitress goggled at her as if she’d asked for a side of maggots, and went and got the chef. He brought out a five gallon jug of white vinegar, which he explained they kept for the purpose of cleaning out things like the coffee maker. Then he poured out a half-mug of the stuff and watched her sprinkle it over the fries and eat them. He exclaimed something down-homey like “Gol-darn!” every now and again as he witnessed her obvious enjoyment of salt and vinegar chips.

    Comment by raincoaster — February 5, 2011 @ 12:02 am

  9. Well, if you’re a food blogger you already know this, but:

    BARBECUE IS SLOW-SMOKED MEAT. It may or may not have sauce; properly smoked meat is more than tender and flavorful enough on its own.

    Barbecue is not: 1. Grilled meat. 2. Meat cooked in any other way, drenched in some syrupy ketchup-and-fake-smoke-flavor sauce. The secret is most certainly not in the sauce. Any meat dish purported to be barbecue on the basis of sauce is a fraud perpetuated by ignorance. Do not eat it. It is bound to be awful. It’s the equivalent of Burger King, cuisine-wise, no matter how its purveyors try to cover themselves with fake authenticity. If the restaurant doesn’t have wood smoke coming out of a chimney at the time of your visit run away. They are lying fake liars. They’ll probably try to sell you those miracle magnets that you put in your shoes to ward off disease.
    If you can’t get to the South or to Texas to eat the real thing, order it online from Kreuz’s or the Salt Lick or Cooper’s.

    Vinegar on fries=yum!

    Comment by Miss Conduct — February 7, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  10. I regret to inform you that in Canada, barbeque is pretty much what cappuccino is in Hawaii, which is: random. And alas, none of those places will airlift their meat products to my beleaguered nation.

    Although this IS an excellent place for me to mention that you can make a marvelous home smoker out of an old dishwasher. Take the motor out and that’s where the chips go. It’s already got heat-proof racks.

    Comment by raincoaster — February 7, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  11. Holy cow, that is awful that you can’t even have Cooper’s send you delicious meat in Canada. We’ve been considering a move to North Dakota for work but we already know we have to build a backyard pit FIRST THING.

    Comment by Miss Conduct — February 7, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

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