“Want to go to a barbecue on Saturday?” asked Amanda.
“Absolutely! I’ll be there,” I replied excitedly.
It had been two months since I’d moved out of Alabama and west to Colorado. Sure, I missed my family and friends, but I was also ailing because of the lack of familiar cuisine I’d taken for granted my entire life. Don’t get me wrong; I am as “crunchy” as the next person. I eat a lot of grains and do my best to stay healthy, but as any Southerner, barbecue is a staple in my diet. And I’m not saying that the south is the only area of the country serving up good barbecue. They’re doing all right up in St. Louis.
Saturday arrived and so did my stomach for juicy, smoked meat.
“Someone out here knows how to smoke brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, or could it be chicken,” I asked myself repeatedly. I could hardly contain my excited palate.
We arrived at her friend’s place as others were beginning to filter in. A small column of smoke was rising over the front of the house. I presumed it was from a smoker stationed in the backyard, but there was no scent of hickory in the air.
The thin mountain air must quickly carry away the smell, I thought.
We mingled in the house for a short time, chatting with friends and securing libations. Anyone who tried having a conversation with me probably didn’t get much more than a few grunts as I did my best to keep saliva from pouring out of my watery mouth. I could stand it no longer. I headed for the backyard to find the person who would make me the happiest fellow west of the Mississippi.
A few more steps to the backdoor and onto the porch and I would be there, right in the thick of it. I have been cooking for as long as I can remember and love to share recipes and talk food preparation with anyone who shares the same passion. As I neared the door, the smell of lighter fluid stopped me dead in my tracks. Could it be charcoal? My confidence wavered, but I didn’t give up hope.
I exited the house through the backdoor, out onto the porch, and my heart sank in my chest. There, on the edge of the deck, stood a grill no bigger than Pac-Man’s head. I must have looked sick or disappointed, or maybe both. My friend Dave walked up and asked if I was OK.
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, have you met Dylan? He’s the one throwing this barbecue.”
I quickly pulled myself together, not wanting to seem rude, as I was still a guest at this person’s house.
“Nice to meet you.” I said. “What are you grilling? Smells great.” I said halfheartedly.
“Brats and burgers!” he announced proudly. “Hope you’re hungry!”
Even though there wasn’t going to be any pulled pork, smoked chicken or ribs, I was hungry. This guy, who didn’t know me from the man on the moon, was just happy that I was there, and he did his best to make sure I was having a good time. My cup stayed full, as did my belly. Dylan and I are still great friends, though it was some time before I told him about my anticipation that day. I wanted him to get to know me before I revealed what a greedy person I had been that Saturday. Had they called it a cookout, I would have been more prepared.
Lesson learned.The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reveals:
- barbecue – (n.) a large animal (as a steer) roasted whole or split over an open fire or a pit
- barbecue – (n.) a social gathering in the open air at which barbecued food is eaten
- barbecue – (v.) to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat
I should have known they wouldn’t be cooking a whole steer. In hindsight, I was naïve for assuming. What’s that old saying involving the word assume?
So if you choose to stray north of the Mason Dixon line, Southerners beware. If you get invited to a barbecue, go. But heads up! There is a good chance that you’ll be heading to what you know as a cookout. Don’t go with a narrow mind expecting a whole pig smoking over a pit of hickory embers. Anybody who has sense enough to host a cookout or barbecue is OK in my book. For me, few things in life are better than standing around a grill with old friends and new ones talking about the times we’ve had and what the future has in store. I have never had a bad barbecue experience.Contact Josh Wolfe.