Saturday, December 15, 2007

Part 2 Lurking, learning, burning and planning

It was not long before I was a regular lurker on the BBQ Forum. Reading the posts and contest results became a daily routine, just like reading the morning paper. I searched the archives, clicked on links and googled for all things BBQ. All the while trying to get a consistent cook with my offset, without having to sit there and watch it every minute. When I had the time to spend sitting with the cooker, I could hold a steady temperature, but leave it alone for and hour or so and you never knew what you would find upon your return. There had to be a better way.

My wife Jo and I had been taking cooking classes together for the past several years and really enjoyed the time together and learning different cooking methods. Our instructor Tom and his wife Carol have become good friends as they open their kitchen up once a month to us students for what is always a great meal.

The one problem that developed because of our increased interest in cooking was we found that our kitchen was too small. (Just a friendly word of caution to those thinking of increasing your cooking knowledge and or skills.) So, in the spring of 2005 we decided to remove a bearing wall and expand our kitchen, more than doubling its size. With the hard work of many of our great friends, (thanks Bobby, Art and Jack), we installed our dream kitchen.

The new floor plan included seating for six around an island complete with a new gas cook top. The room became our kitchen/family room. As was always the case, when family and friends came over, everyone always hung out in the kitchen, only now there was plenty of room and they could watch all of the action. We located a new Weber Genesis gas grill just outside the side kitchen door and ran a gas line from the main LP source to eliminate the need to replace grill bottles. The new grill is not far away so the cook can stay in the conversation and does not get lost behind the grill. I am not sure if the guests appreciate this fact as much as I do!

I communicated regularly my new friend Steve and he asked me several times to come and hang out with him at various BBQ contests. I had mentioned to Steve earlier that if he ever needed a pot washer or runner at any contest to let me know. Teenage sons in the final years of High School along with the ongoing kitchen project just would not let it happen. I continued to read The Forum and work on my BBQ skills. Some results were good, while others, well, let’s just say, not so good.

As the Tailgate Challenge approached in August 2005, Mike and I again signed up. I had been working on my ribs in the offset and was not happy with the result. I felt I could get a better rib cook with the Weber kettle. When the day of the Bash arrived, we hauled the kettle down to Bel Air. It was what seemed like 110 degrees that day and cooking on an asphalt parking lot made it seem even hotter. We were much more pleased with our product that day and came in 5th place. We did not get a ribbon, but it was nice getting the “Call”. We had a lot of friends and family stop by again which made for a good time. Steve and Dave again cooked as Team Agave and after we cleaned up, we stopped over for a visit. It was good seeing our friends again but the heat of the long day and a planned full day on Saturday with the ongoing construction project caused us to call it an early night.

An e-mail a few days later from Steve invited me to New Holland for the Summer Fest 2005. The new cabinets were on the schedule to be installed that day and I had to stay home. Not that I have the ability to install kitchen cabinets, but somebody has to hand the skilled workers the unpacked cabinets, fetch beers and cook lunch, and that somebody was me. BBQ contests would have to wait.

By October 2005 the kitchen project was wrapping up and it was time to break it in. Christmas was our first big meal and things worked very well, Jo and I could not have been happier. In February 2006, we hosted a dinner for all of our friends that helped with the kitchen project including Sheila from Lowes that did the layout design. Our guests dined on fillet mignon and seared tuna and a good time was had by all.

The annual family vacation for 2006 was set, deposit sent, house reserved, plans in place. When is the Bel Air bash this year, THE SAME TIME AS OUR ALREADY SCHEDULED VACATION!!!! How did that happen?? I sure would like to blame it on Jo. Perhaps the BBQ schedule was not consulted before vacation plans were made. Surely, she should have looked, ah, maybe not, perhaps she’s not into this cook off thing like I am. You can bet that will never happen again if I can help it.

We did arrive home mid afternoon on the day of the Bash. Jo and I drove down to Bel Air in time for the awards. The Dizzy Pig gang won as Grand Champion and a mental note was made to check the BBQ dates before making vacation plans in the future.

Wait a minute, things are looking up, Steve is heading to New Holland August 25th to attempt to repeat as the Grand Champion and he needs a dish washer, hmmmmmm I think I can make that!

No comments: