Lyin' Eyes: The Sad truth of the bbq world
Hello, peoples. I'm writing to you in a bit of dark mood today. I've been sick as a dog-- lightheaded, queasy and woozy for the last three days and it's given me a lot of time to think-- maybe too much.
I re-read some of my favorite bbq books-- Peace, Love and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Tunnicliffe Mills, and Legends of Texas Barbecue, by Robb Walsh. These two books are really love letters to barbecue more than they are cookbooks, if you ask me. Both authors have a reverence for the art and history of barbecue that comes through in their loving details and thoughtful documentation of bbq legends, joints and techniques old and new. Reading these books reminded me of my wide-eyed enthusiasm about barbecue when I got started.
The books got me a little misty, I'm not afraid to admit. When I started cooking barbecue it was because I was under a spell-- a belief that there was something honorable and pure, even a bit mystical to the art of cooking with fire that went far beyond competitions and paychecks. I wanted to cook barbecue because I wanted to be part of the magic, the love and the process. It was a rare commodity in my neck of the woods and I was proud and giddy to talk about it-- I was reverent of bbq's history and those before me who had paved the way. I didn't even think of commercializing my love.
Nowadays, it seems that everyone wants a shortcut to the secrets that can make them competition superstars, or they look at barbecue as a means to fame and a paycheck. The egos, politics and (petty, personal) competitions have nothing to do with barbecue as far as I'm concerned and it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The most coveted professional barbecue pits require you to flip a switch and walk away-- hours later your bbq is ready with little-to-no art in the process. Maybe the food tastes good, but is that all that matters? What happened to respecting the process?
I'm not anti-progress or even that much of a purist, but I respect the art and the alchemy of cooking barbecue. Every part of it. I feel the need to extract myself to some degree from the activity that surrounds bbq and cooking these days-- it all feels tainted to me now. I've been feeling that way for awhile, but I've tried to ignore it. I've seen supposed friendships made over plates of barbeque shattered by egos and lies, all in pursuit of a buck and a headline, and I've had just about enough. The food seems honest, but the people do not. I feel alone in this conclusion right now, but suspect that I am not. It is a sinking ship that we're riding.
I will continue to cook and share my food with you all, but it's time to re-evaluate and look harder for the good and the pure parts of my love of bbq that first inspired me. Sorry to vent so negatively, but when you love something and believe in the power and magic it holds, it is hard to see it get so polluted.