The Hampton Smoker

What's up wtih what's going down? Does a tree falling on the ocean with no one around make a sound? Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-b-que. It's all in how you sell it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

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.


Blogger Terry said...

Hey Backyard, sorry you're under the weather. Hope you feel better soon. As to your comments...Amen Brother. I think like you, yes it's great to win comps. but I wanted to lean how to do 'Q' for the love of doing great 'Q' old style. Nothing fancy, flip a switch walk away crap. Grab a few beers, and sit and watch that temp. like a hawk, and reap the rewards of some awesome 'Q'.


8:05 PM  
Blogger yankeebbq said...

Dude cheer up. It aint that bad. It's still the off season and things get kinda rough. Don't just go by what you read on the interenet. Get out there and participate whether it's competition, cooking for family and friends or even some commercial venture. There's still a lot of friendships being created through this thing you love. I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things and made many many friends through bbq. Trust me.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Backyard Chef said...

Terry...right on. And thanks for the well wishing. I'm heading to the doctor after work to see what's what.

Watch the temp like a hawk....yup, I sure do....

Yankeebbq....Thanks, and I appreciate your perspective for sure. I didn't mean to come across as slamming competitions-- I know plenty of people that love them and attend for the well as to get their name called.

Money changes everything, I guess...

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Hugh Jackman said...

BYC, you ever plug your briskets like they talk about in "Legends"?

The process changed along the way, for change is inevitable.

Goto go by me some pellets and a new lens for my grill cam.


10:15 AM  
Blogger Backyard Chef said...

Hey a real star in our midst...

Uhm, I've not plugged briskets, but I've tried a bunch of the recipes-- the stuffed pork was real good.

I hear ya on the change being inevitable, but sometimes you take one step forwards and two steps when you dance on broadway, you swankster...

7:29 PM  
Blogger WhiteTrashBBQ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

I haven't been around your blog in a while, and I am sorry to see that you have been down and discouraged. You are the real deal in a world that continually denies itself true culinary glory in favor of a quick fix. I hate it too and I won't support it or endorse it. Keep on smokin' like it's supposed to be done and someday when the true art has fallen to the side, people will seek you for your knowledge.

7:02 AM  

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