In this first post, I’m going to try and explain how I came to be a barbecue guy. How a Canadian guy who’d never really spent any time in the south became a fan of a cuisine that isn’t necessarily easy to find where I live. First, a little background story.
I’ve always been a fan of what I used to think was barbecue. I have fond memories of childhood barbecues with burgers and hot dogs on the grill and our Mom sending my brother and I on our bikes to Mrs. Mikes for $2 worth of fries. She would call ahead and there would be a big brown paper bag of their delicious fries waiting for us to pedal back home with.
Later on in life I became proud of my abilities to cook and create a variety of tasty dishes on my propane fueled Weber and enjoyed cooking for family and friends. I still do.
But in 2011 that all changed. My wife bought me a book as an anniversary gift. She thought it was a recipe book for the grilling type of barbecue that we had become accustomed to…she was wrong and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so thankful for an innocent mistake. The book was ‘Peace, Love & BBQ’ by Mike and Amy Mills, proprietors of 17th Street Barbecue in Murpysboro, IL and BBQ legend. While there are some darned fine recipes in there, the book is filled with the stories of the people that Mike has encountered in his years on the BBQ competition circuit. Reading these tales triggered something inside me and sparked an interest in learning more about this style of food.
Let’s face the facts. I live in Calgary, AB, Canada. The options ’round these parts to taste authentic BBQ are limited, but I did what I could. That Christmas delivered my first smoker, a simple Brinkmann barrel model from Bass Pro Shops. Armed with just enough info to make me dangerous, my first attempt at ribs was less than stellar. They took a lot longer than expected and while they were edible, they were far from spectacular. My next attempt at ribs, along with a red wine infused moose roast was far better.
Using that barrel smoker there were a few more attempts at ribs and brisket. Some good, some not so good…but never quite what I was looking to create. I was learning that BBQ was something that took time and practice to get decent at, and as a busy family man with 2 kids the opportunities to spend a whole day on the weekend to mind the coals were few and far between.
My definition of real BBQ was about to change however…