Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The ‘Off Season’

Does it really exist?

As the 2009 BBQ season winds down and we enter the so called off season, it causes me to reflect a minute on the year gone by. It seems like a week or two ago, everyone was eager with anticipation as the new season was beginning. And now, before we knew it, it’s finished. My question is where did it go?

I know that some folks say the older you get, the faster time goes. As a fellow on the back side of a half of century old, I have to say there is some truth to that. There’s also the thought that, “time flies when your having fun”. So, I guess when you have an old man that is having a load of fun, you have a guy that shouldn’t even wear a wrist watch for fear of the hands rubbing together starting a fire!

As we finish our 3rd year on the competition trail I realize that I am having a heck of a lot of fun. This year we cooked in 7 contests and were fortunate enough to win our first Grand Championship. Over the past 3 years, I have made some really good friends, had some great times, and occasionally eaten some pretty tasty BBQ. No wonder time is flying, cause I have had a ball.

As for the off season, it is my opinion it doesn’t even exist. Some folks will stow their cookers for the winter months, others will be used, but a not at the frequency as in the months just past. Many teams will use the off time to tweak their recipes and or procedures, maybe purchase a new cooker or some other sought after piece of equipment. Toss in a few holidays, a BBQ trade show or two, a couple of Sundays in front of the tube watching football, and before you know it, it is time to start gathering items for the first contest of the year. In other words slowing down but not off.

For me, winter brings some of the things I look forward to. The holidays, family time, hunting season, and a fire in the fireplace, are all things I enjoy this time of year. I have some projects under way, along with several I have been putting off that I am sure will keep me plenty busy during the long nights of winter.

Of course, there are the inevitable practice cooks. During the few weekends that we have nothing scheduled, I plan to do a few practice runs. You know, where I want to try that new twist, method or procedure. My problem is, I will try and clean the garage or rotate the truck tires while I am supposed to be taking notes and or observing my new twist, method and procedure. This multi-tasking usually results in forgetting to add the new twist, option or procedure, or adding it without remembering when it was done, or better yet, what specifically WAS done. Either way, relying on my failing memory is not an option, it must be written down if I want to have any hope of remembering and or repeating the newest twist, method or procedure.

My other form of entertainment during the ‘off season’ is reading the numerous BBQ forums. These are places where other bored BBQ cooks hang out and discuss anything from the pros and cons of injecting your meat to whether or not judges know what they are doing. (For the record, I believe that they do) Along about February or March, things occasionally get a little dicey which makes for some interesting reading during those long cold winter nights. By April, as the days get a little longer and things start to warm a bit, discussions turn to the upcoming season. This results in the earlier squabbles being removed to the forum archives, many never to be seen again. At times, this is a good thing.

Next thing I know, spring is just around the corner, where does time go? Before I know it, it is time to order in supplies, review and complete contest applications, load the trailer, and try and remember the new twists, methods and procedures that I supposedly perfected during all of my ‘off’ time. Now, if I could only remember where I put those notes.

So much for an off season, as I stated earlier, I believe an ‘off season’ doesn’t exist. Maybe what needs to happen is we need to change the name. Instead of ‘off season’, we should call it the ‘slow season’ or maybe ‘practice season’. The suggestion of, ‘the non competitive but still cooking season’ seems to make a lot of sense, but doesn’t really flow that well so I don’t see any chance of that catching on.

So I guess we are stuck with ‘off season’, which really isn’t that bad. It is an off season where you’re not really off. After all, in a few short months, it will be spring and time to start all over again. You had better get to work on that new recipe or that big project you have on your list for around the house, because before we know it, the contest smoke will be rolling again. Remember, time flies when you’re having fun!

As the Holiday Season approaches, I would like to take a moment to wish all of my regular readers and their families a joyous and safe Holiday season, as well as a happy, safe, and prosperous 2010.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Accidental Author

Or how to write a book without really trying!

Of course you know that I am only kidding about writing a book without really trying. Writing is hard work, a very strenuous and taxing undertaking for anyone involved in such a venture. In my opinion, those involved should be rewarded and paid very handsomely, especially those that have written a book. And now, the rest of the story.

As some of you may or may not know I am in the process of having a book published. For me, that’s some pretty exciting stuff. Currently I write monthly columns in both the National BBQ News and the KCBS Bullsheet and have been regularly posting to this blog since December 2007. As a side note, I receive nary a penny for my monthly contributions to these fine monthly publications. My reward is knowing that the few people that read my monthly columns, find excitement, enjoyment, tranquility and inner peace each month from my written words. In other words, like all those big time artists claim, “I am not in it for the money, I am only in it for the satisfaction of knowing that others appreciate my work and for what I can do to further advance the greater good of all mankind.” Yup, that’s me, greater good of all mankind and all.

I didn’t really start out to write a book or to even write this blog, it all happened sort of by accident. What follows is the story, or what my failing memory can remember about the story on how I began. What I can’t remember, I will just evoke my literary license that I now possess. For those that are wondering, literary license means as an author, I can write the story any way I see fit. Sort of like a politician citing approval ratings, unemployment numbers or giving a budget report!

Wickipedia notes:
In summary, literary license is:
• Entirely at the writers discretion
• Intended to be tolerated by the reader (cf. "willing suspension of disbelief")
• Useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps.
• Used consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally or in tandem.

Not bad huh? Now, that is a license worth having!

Some of my regular readers will recall that my friend and BBQ mentor Steve Farin is the guy I have to blame/thank for my current BBQ addiction. Well, he is partly to blame/thank for this excursion into BBQ story telling that I currently find myself. Back in December of 2007 Steve was launching a blog site. He was going to include stories and pictures from all around the BBQ circuit.

Steve sent me an email asking for information or stories to post on his blog. Things were a little slow around the office at the time due to the Christmas Holiday season so I thought it might be neat to write a short story on how our team was started. I banged out the story and attempted to follow Steve’s instructions on how to add it to his blog. Being the internet and computer wiz that I am, I promptly went to the blog server page, opened a new blog account and posted my newly written story onto its own blog page. I never even got close to Steve’s page.

I was now a blogger and didn’t even know it. I sent Steve a note to tell him I posted my story on his blog and to see what he thought. To which he replied that he has not seen the story and has no idea where I could have posted it. A few more e mail exchanges and I realized what I had done. The simple solution would have been to go in and delete the new blog site, post on Steve’s site and be done with it. But, anyone that knows me would know I am not one to take the simple way out. I had some time on my hands, so why not scratch out another post or two, this could be fun. I could be a blogger. The beginning of the end is what it was!

I started to tell the story of how I came to get involved in competition BBQ cooking complete with suggestions and guidance to others that might be thinking of getting started. Back when I was planning on starting a team I searched around on the internet for available information for the nuts and bolts of starting a team. I found some information scattered about, but no concise one stop shop with the collection of pointers and info that I needed. I thought, while writing my blog, that I would give the readers, (both of them), a complete ‘how to’ guide on starting a BBQ team.

The posts would cover information that I had discovered through my own experience as well as info I had uncovered through my extensive research on the subject. As I told the story I also included recaps, results and mishaps from contests that my team had entered during its rookie year. While the number of posts began to grow, a funny thing began to happen; I started hearing from folks that had actually been reading my stuff. Most of the feedback I was getting was very positive. (Of course, there was that one guy that chased me down the street, but that is a story for another day) I even had some folks tell me what I already thought I knew, “I don’t think there are any books out there that cover how to start your own BBQ team, you ought to write a book.” How many times have you heard that one? This time was different, this time it was sounding like a good idea.

Now, I have to tell you the thought of writing a book had never crossed my mind. But the further I got into the project and the more research that I did, it started to appear that I might be onto something. As little as I knew about writing a book, I knew even less about having a book published. I searched the web and was overwhelmed with information dealing with publication companies.

Ray Lampe, better known as Dr BBQ is an accomplished writer and author. He is also a regular visitor to several of the BBQ forums that I visit from time to time. I dropped him a note to see if he would have moment to speak with me on the phone about my project. To my surprise, he did, and in February 2008 we spoke. Ray glanced at my blog and offered some thoughts to a fledging writer/blogger/wanna-be author.
I continued to work on my blog and as time moved on, I kept thinking about the book idea. Maybe it would work; there wasn’t anything like it out there. So I combined some of my posts along with some other info together and sent it along for a friend to edit. What the heck, I had nothing better to do.

A couple of months later, I received the edited copy back and set about to make the changes to my original draft. Once that was complete, I read and re-read what I had. It was good stuff, very informative, just a bit dry. It was like, maybe it could use a little salt and pepper. Something was needed to wake it up a bit, maybe a dash of cayenne pepper wold help. I had a bunch of other stories that I had written, some with a touch of humor, maybe I could add a few of the stories that were relevant to the particular information that was being given and see how that looks. What I ended up with was a combination of helpful information along with what I am calling ‘the lighter side” of starting a BBQ team, it seemed to work well together. Now what do I do?

Red Todd is a friend, a writer, and a darn good BBQ cook. He helped me with introductions to both the folks at KCBS and the NBBQN when I was thinking about writing monthly columns. Last year he self published a book containing many of his favorite recipes. I contacted Red and was advised how to self publish using the same company that he had used. I contacted Kristal Shade of Sherman’s Computer Service, Beach Creek PA, and was on the way to being self published.

I received the first shipment of my books in late July. I then began to send copies around to anyone I had an address for, just kidding. I did send out copies to folks that I had come to know while hanging out in the BBQ world for the past 3 years, asking for their thoughts and opinions. I even sold a few copies.

One afternoon my phone rang with a number that I didn’t recognize, it was Dave Dewitt, the former publisher of Fiery Foods and BBQ magazine. Dave is an accomplished writer/author and has written the forward in the first two of Dr BBQ cookbooks. I had sent Dave a copy of the book about 3 weeks prior. We spoke briefly on the phone, he said he glanced at my book and thought I might have something. He said that as far as he knew, there wasn’t anything like this book currently on the market. He then asked if I was looking for a publisher. Dave had a publisher friend out in Albuquerque NM that he had worked with in the past and they would be looking at the book and would be in touch in a couple of days.

To say I was shocked would be a huge understatement. Maybe it was all a dream. I ran downstairs and told Jo my wife what had just happened. The news was greeted by a large yawn along with the question, “what do you want for diner?” Maybe it WAS a dream. (Truth be told, without using literary license, she was very happy for me.)

A week came and went with not a word from Dave or his publisher friend. Was this the classic, don’t call me, I’ll call you scenario? I know, I’ll have my girl call your girl. The trouble was, I didn’t even have a girl, except for my wife Jo, and I know her well enough that she AIN’T answering any phone calls for me, that’s a fact! Boy, I am in trouble, no girl for me, who would his girl call? Maybe Jo would let me hire a young secretary for phone call answering only, hmmmm, maybe not, wouldn’t hurt to ask though would it?

Maybe I’ll call him, nah, best to wait. You have no idea how many times I picked up the phone. Finally almost a week and a half later, the call came. Dave said they had looked over my book and wanted to publish it, but first he had a few questions of me. “What were my expectations with the book?” Dave asked. I then launched into a five minute dissertation about how I just wanted to satisfy my readers hunger for information and try to accomplish something for the greater good along with a bunch of other horse hockey that I myself didn’t even believe. I could tell I lost him just after the “satisfy my readers” comment. As soon as he had the chance Dave asked the next and probably the most important question, “You aren’t expecting to get rich with this project are you?” As soon as I said “no” he seemed very pleased and ready to move onto the next step, a contract would be sent out shortly. Welcome to the world of published authors.

The next day the contact arrived via e mail. I read it over, signed and sent it back. I am on the road to being a published author of my own book. Pretty amazing if you ask me. I am told that the book will be released this spring. I have found that things move very slowly here in the book publishing world, even with a literary license.

Dave thinks there is market for a book on this topic, I hope he is right. Time will tell. I am looking forward to marketing the book and I hope that some folks might read it and become involved in this sport/lifestyle called competition BBQ. That would make it all worthwhile, for the greater good you understand.

I see in the fine print on the contract I signed that I may have to appear at book signings if requested. I knew I should have read that thing before I put my name on the dotted line. Book signings, I didn’t see that before, besides, who in the world would want me to ruin a brand new book by signing my name in it; I guess time will tell us that one as well!

Meanwhile I have a few ideas for my next book that I want to run by you when you have a minute, or maybe I’ll start a new blog, if I could only remember how I started this one, hmmmmm……Now, where did I put that license?

My book, entitled Startin the Fire is a detailed 'how to' guide on staring your own competition BBQ team and is on schedule to be released this spring. It will be available at www.watgbbq.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

JOS BBQ Cooking Class

Unadilla Georgia, here I come

This past weekend I traveled to Unadilla GA to attend a cooking class given by Myron Mixon of Jacks Old South fame. I flew into Atlanta Friday morning, had lunch in North Atlanta with an old friend, and then began the 100+ mile drive south to Unadilla. South of Macon, just off interstate 75, Unadilla is a sparsely populated town located in Dooley County Georgia.

After checking into my motel in Perry Georgia, I traveled another 10 miles south to Myron’s house located in Unadilla. Friday at 6 pm he had a ‘meet and greet’ on the schedule. I arrived around 6:15 and found the yard already packed with a large group of eager BBQ students from all over the Country. As soon as I set foot into the lighted area under the Ezy-ups I was greeted by one of Myron’s staff and the fine southern hospitality never stopped from that point forward.

Everyone was given a name tag and a goody bag while a few of Myron’s gang laid out a fish fry that really hit the spot after a long day of traveling. Myron made the rounds and greeted everyone personally, much of the discussion was centered on what you wanted to accomplish or learn in the next two days of his class.

After dinner and a few cold beers, I was ready to head back to the motel for some sack time as we were instructed to be back at 7:00 Saturday morning to begin to work on the whole hog. Most of the others were as tired as I was and also adjourned to their rooms to get some rest.

The following morning found all the students back on site, notebooks and cameras at the ready, as Myron and his team began to work on the 210 lb hog that was being readied for the cooker. From that point on, it was a full morning as Myron moved from hog to shoulder to the KCBS meats. We took a short break to eat some burgers and hot dogs before we began the afternoon session which went right up till dark.

As soon as the sun set, Myron’s crew spread out a low country boil for supper that was delicious. Not long after diner, folks started to drift off to their motels to get some much needed rest as we were told we had at least as much, if not more, material scheduled to be covered on Sunday.

As promised, Sunday morning we were right back at it as meats were finished and presentation boxes were made. During the entire session Myron was clear and very thorough with the information he was presenting. Many times adding in some of the famous ‘color’ that he has come to be known for around the BBQ circuits.

Myron Mixon is a 3 time World Champion that has won many contests in an assortment of sanctioning body’s all across the Country. He has been cooking competitively since 1996. With his trademark hairstyle and black shirt he has become one of the most easily recognizable figures in today’s BBQ World.

Some might say that he is not going to give up all his secrets to a BBQ class, whether he does or doesn’t, no one knows for sure. What I can tell you is this, he gives enough information to fill a spiral note book about ¾ full and that’s for a guy that is not a super note taker. He allows his students to take pictures and ask questions, appearing to hold nothing back. Myron will explain that teaching his students his current methods makes him work harder and get better in order to keep up with or beat the folks that he has taught. Makes sense to me.

The mix of people that were in the class ranged from complete novice non competition, never cooked BBQ before, to guys that have already won more than a few contest Grand Championships, and everything in between. If you ask me, hearing Myron Mixon give his MIM whole hog presentation was worth the price admission all by itself, not to mention sampling some mighty good tasting BBQ.

Overall, there was a lot of good information disseminated and a ton of questions answered. The information was presented and demonstrated in a clear and concise manor. Recipes, formulas and mixes were all given including all measurements and amounts. Sources and websites used to gather needed supplies and equipment was provided. Was information held back? I think not. Will Jacks Old South be doing their contest cooking exactly like presented next season? Maybe not, but I think it will be very close. Will Myron Mixon continue to work to improve his product each and every time out? Without a doubt, I believe he would be doing that even without giving the classes.

The huge question now is can I take any of the information and apply it to my competition cooks, only time will tell. What I do know is you could give 10 cooks all the same box of cake mixes, the same type of equipment, and you will get 10 different cakes, every time. I am hoping I can bake a cake somewhat similar to what I saw this weekend. I am looking forward to trying some of the things I was shown and plan to begin this Sunday. After all, there are only 150 days until Salisbury and I have a lot of work to do.

Additional note:
Be sure to watch December 3 at 10 pm on TLC for the new show called the BBQ Pitmasters. The series will be shown in 8 segments which includes BBQ contests from all around the Country. Highlighted teams include Jacks Old South, Cool Smoke, Woodchicks, Slap Yo Daddy and many more.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Diamond State BBQ Championship

Ain’t this suppose to be fun?
What’s with Mother Nature, doesn’t she like to Que?

The first two years we competed on the BBQ trail we cooked in a total of 11 contests. Out of those events, with the exception of a brief shower at Dover in 2007 during the tornado, we were operating in dry conditions. We had a lot of fun. This year was quite different.

April found us in Salisbury, no rain, but we had a huge wind gust come out of nowhere Friday afternoon and destroy a bunch of equipment including our brand new 10X20 canopy. In May we cooked in Green Lane PA, heavy rain the week before the event made the contest grounds a sponge, no rain fell while we were there, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

June we signed up for an event to be held in a horse arena in Upper Marlboro MD. Again heavy rain preceding the contest day played heck with the set up conditions. Late Friday night we received torrential rain for about 1.5 hours, making for some interesting waterways and ponds around the entire contest area.

Our next contest was Bel Air in August, nearly perfect conditions, that was fun. Then came New Holland, the party was over. It rained all day Friday and on and off during Saturday morning and afternoon, the skies clearing just before awards. Most of the gear was put away wet and had to be dried after returning home, a royal pain.

Harrisburg PA was in early October, showers Friday evening and overnight caused a few minor adjustments, but overall, most of the equipment was dry before being packed. Dover DE was next on the list and up to be our last event for 2009. Looking at the forecast the week before the event would have one questioning ones sanity. Jo, my wife, even went as far as suggesting that we scratch, stay home and stay dry. “Never”, I think was my reply, besides, the weatherman is usually wrong in my book. What does he know?

To say it rained at Dover this year would be an understatement. It rained, it blew, then it rained some more. Couple the rain and wind with temps in the mid 40’s and you’ve got yourself some miserable conditions. Oh and did I mention the wind, steady at 10-15, gusts 25 to maybe 30, everything had to be tied down. At times, I felt the entire operation was going to lift off and sail into space, fortunately for us, it did not.

My point here is, this was not fun. We set up in the rain, cooked in the rain, slept in the rain, walked to the bathrooms in the rain, tore down in the rain, well, you get the picture. It even rained Sunday and Monday following the contest. The first dry day was Tuesday where things could be spread out to dry.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We made the best of the circumstances, but to say that this was an enjoyable weekend would be like saying it is fun to stand around in the same damp clothes for 2 days, fun, it ain’t. My question is, when would a forecast be dismal enough to say, “we aren’t going, we’re going to sit this one out”. I guess I will answer my own question, never. We like to cook too much, we enjoy the camaraderie, the friendship, the competition, if we are signed up for an event, we are going, no matter what. Some might say we have more heart than brains, and you know, I think that some would be right. Nevertheless, 81 teams braved the elements and cooked their hearts out in the rain at Dover this year and we were proud to be one of the field. The field, by the way, contained some of the premier teams from all around the Country, some from as far away as Texas and California.

The who are those guys? team finished the year with a 16th place overall finish at the Diamond State BBQ contest, nothing to scream about, but somewhat respectable considering the competition. And even though it took a week or so to dry out all of our equipment, we are all looking forward to next April when the BBQ season begins around these parts with the Pork in the Park contest at Winterhaven Park, Salisbury MD. Let’s just hope that it is a sunny weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Turn-in Window

10 minutes seems like forever…or does it?

If you think back to when you were in high school and the clock on the wall said there were10 minutes until dismissal, sometimes it almost seemed like time was going backwards. At the very least, it certainly seemed like time was standing still. In a KCBS BBQ contest you have a window of 10 minutes, 600 seconds, in which to submit your entry to the judges. To the non contestant, I am sure this seems like plenty of time. Most times it is, sometimes it’s just not enough.

The importance of time is stressed to the BBQ teams from the moment you decide to enter a contest. Most events require entry forms be submitted by a deadline date. When the information packet is sent to the head cooks, they are told what time to arrive on site, the times for the cooks meeting, when meat will be inspected, when turn-ins begin, even when you are allowed to leave for home. While at the cooks meeting, the contest reps again go over turn-in times, when they begin, how long they are open, when they end. Also present at the meeting is the official contest clock. The time is shown to all present in case anyone would like to synchronize their watches. Although in today’s world of cell phones and atomic clocks, synchronizing wrist watches is just about a thing of the past.

At most contests, the reps will stop around at each site on Saturday morning with the official contest clock in tow; again, so that the teams can make sure they know exactly what time will be used to determine the all important ‘turn-in’ window. The point of all this, everyone knows what time it is on Saturday morning at a BBQ contest. Now, if I can digress, knowing what time it is and completing a multitude of tasks within a certain timeframe are not the same.

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, teams receive a DQ for a late turn-in. A person on the outside looking in might say “how can that be?”…those on the inside know, “oh, it be”. While at a contest, I am constantly amazed how fast time moves. Early Saturday morning it seems like you have forever to get things done, things are relaxed, folks are shuffling about. Perhaps, many are suffering from a little bit too much merry making the night before, maybe some are just not morning people, I believe most think things are completely under control. For me, it is up early to get the ribs on, check the big meats, maybe grab some breakfast. Before I know it, its time to get the chicken started.

Now, I think I need to mention here, due to my own madness, my chicken cook has expanded into a 2.5 hour process. This procedure has severely limited me on any and all relaxation that might be available on Saturday morning at a contest. No matter how hard I try, it seems that as the magic time of 11:55 approaches, I am always behind were I should be. Being behind is not a good thing. I hustle, bustle, poke and prod all in an attempt to get the chicken into the box at a decent time. What is the optimum time you ask? I try to shoot for 12:00 on the nose. For whatever reason, it seems I always enter into the backside, (the last 5 minutes), of the window. Depending on how far our site is located from the judges’ tent, the backside of the window is not a good place to be. However, it seems I am always stuck in the backside, of the turn-in window that is!

Once we enter into the backside of the chicken window, it seems like we can never get out. We will be rushed and behind all day. I look up at the clock and know we have 25 minutes to get the rib box ready, more than enough time. I have a minute or two to relax, yea right. The next time I glace at the clock, it is 12:20 and my ribs are still spread about the cutting board. I look again after applying the finishing touches to the ribs and again we are right there in the backside, once again. Only this time, we’re stuck a little deeper.

The pork box for me is one of the most time consuming that we have and I can’t explain why. We don’t do all that well in pork; it just takes me a long time to prepare a mediocre pork box. Having to rush the box as a result of our presence in the backside surely doesn’t help. At this point I have stopped even looking at the clock and am relying on my teammates shouting out the time remaining until the lid must be closed. Our team runner usually whispers gently to me when I am in the backside of the backside for the pork turn-in. If you believe that one, I have a bridge to sell you.

Our brisket box usually assembles fairly quickly. Most of our time here is spent trying to determine which slices we will submit. Some times, the choice is made for us as a result of the contest submission being the best of the worse. Other times, we actually have to decide which we like better, and that is a good thing. The other time wasting issue I have found during the brisket portion of the contest is trying to find someone to help me taste and sample the cuts. Usually by now, no one on the team wants to put a piece of BBQ’ed meat into their mouths, no matter how small. Eventually, we get it done and the box goes in, hopefully on time.

For us, if we get behind early, we stay behind. If our 1st box goes in on time, we usually stay on schedule, with emphasis on the word usually. At a contest, every once in a while, you’ll hear that a team was DQ’ed for a late submission. In other words, getting stuck deep in the backside. You can see how it can happen, just don’t let it happen to you. Whatever you do, take whatever measures are available to avoid being late, after all, you’ve got 600 seconds!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Keystone BBQ Classic, Oct 2-3 2009, Harrisburg PA

A shocker……….

While on the way home from New Holland, sitting on a butt-doughnut, nursing a sore rear from the spanking that we just received, I got a call from teammate Bobby. He was traveling home with Al and they had a conversation about what they felt was our dismal showing at the Summer Fest. They had an idea, why don’t we sign up for the contest in early October just up in Harrisburg PA. See if we could turn things around a bit, blow the stink off so to speak.

Keep in mind; these are two guys that have made rumblings about next season cutting back on the number of contests we are currently cooking. Was I hearing them correctly, they wanted to sign up for an addition event, one that wasn’t already on the schedule. “But that is only two weeks before Dover,” I said, as I have heard complainants in the past about the short time between Bel Air and New Holland. “We know, see if you can get us in” was the reply, talk about a shocker.

A search around the net, a few emails and before I knew it I was inking a check and sending it off to Harrisburg PA. Erich was already committed to a family obligation and would have to miss the show but it looked like everyone else was in. This first weekend in October was a busy one for BBQ teams, The Royal in Kansas City and a contest down in Front Royal Virginia would be pulling the teams in different directions.

Al and I met early Friday morning then drove north to Harrisburg. The contest was being held in conjunction with a livestock show that had been going on all week. The organizers had us set up on the front lawn of the huge farm complex. Level sights, free ice and clean indoor toilets made this set-up one of the best of the year. Twenty-two teams had signed up to cook in this second year contest. This was the first year the event was sanctioned by KCBS and it had been designated as a State Championship, meaning that the winner would qualify for consideration for entry to next years Royal and Jack Daniels invitational in Lynchburg.

Friday’s weather threatened all day but never rained. We had a few showers after dark, nothing too long or heavy, not bad at all. By midnight, the showers had quit and the nearly full moon was struggling to make an appearance. The cookers were lit; the meat was loaded, so far without a hitch.

Saturday morning broke with a beautiful sunrise, the rain was gone and it seem like all was well. Little did we know, the now famous BBQ gremlins had sent a squad into town during the night while we slept. I had figured that we may not see them this weekend with so many other contests going on, I thought they’d be spread too thin and not have the manpower, or the interest to cover a second year event in the capitol city of Pennsylvania. Boy, was I wrong.

As I reported earlier, Lettuceman Erich was unable to join us this weekend. Jo jumped in and did a fine job preparing the boxes, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was, we were a man down. I have said in the past how well the team was working together and I meant it. Everyone has settled in and knows what has to be done and when. Very few directions, instruction, or requests have to be made or given. Stuff just gets done. When you remove a wheel from the cart, the cart still moves forward, it just wobbles a bit.

Let’s just leave it at that, our cart was wobbling with the absence of lettuceman Erich. Several times during the morning’s activities, Jo commented that I needed to lighten up, relax, get some mojo working. Our usually good mojo apparently was on vacation with Erich and his family just north of us in the Poconos. It just seemed like we couldn’t get anything right. We struggled, I cussed, the morning moved on. Its amazing how what seems like a very small issue can be turned into a mountain when accentuated by a short tempered fat guy swearing and tossing things about, most times un-necessarily.

One of the lighter moments of the morning even got a chuckle from Mr Doom and Gloom, yours truly. I have been sporting a new look the last three contests, a straw hat. The headgear has been worn at both Bel Air and New Holland without a lot of comment. (very unusual) All of the sudden this weekend, I was receiving sharp barbs and insults in reference to my new skyzoo, of which; I was becoming very fond of. I removed my hat when taking off my apron to make a dash to the rest room during the mornings prep work and wouldn’t you know it, when I returned, I couldn’t locate my new friend. I got busy with other things and figured I had misplaced the hat and it would turn up later. After a long and unfruitful search, I finally spotted my straw hat clipped to the upper support bar of the canopy, out of reach without a ladder, pretty funny. Of course, no one in the site had any idea how it got there, amazing. Maybe the work of the gremlins.

Turn-ins complete, the trailer packed, we sauntered over for the 4:00 awards ceremony which began on time. I ranked our boxes after submission, ribs, brisket, pork, then chicken. The judges were pretty close. We first received a call for 5th place for our submission of chili made from a 4.5 # hunk of Bologna given to each team by the contest sponsor. Chicken, I didn’t think we’d have a chance, 5th place. Next was ribs, 2nd place, pork (usually our anchor) 2nd place, brisket 3rd place. Bobby was standing next to me and looked over, he leaned in to say something, my head was swimming, I uttered something like “don’t count your chickens”, (notice the inevitable reference to my fine feathered friend). Reserve Champion goes to Flying Porkers, who were last years winner. Grand Champion honors go to”who are those guys?” wow, to say I was happy would be an understatement. We let out a war hoot and went as a group to collect our trophy. Pretty cool. A shocker for sure. Gremlins be dammed.

This was our third year as a team. During our short time on the competition trail we have gotten a few calls and even gotten close to a grand a couple of times. Actually collecting a grand championship trophy was a first for our team and truly an amazing experience. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, Al, Bobby, Erich and Jo, and for that I say thanks. Icing on the cake was my Mother and Father were there at the awards to see us get the win. Mom told me before the awards that she had a good feeling, I guess she was right. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been if Erich could have been there. Today is Thursday, 5 days since our walk, and the first day that my feet have even been close to the ground, a shocker for sure, one I am sure we won’t soon forget.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Holland Summer Fest 8/28-8/29 New Holland PA

From 1st to 67th in 12 short months
Excuses….I aint got.

In case you don’t remember, last year at this contest we took 1st place in pork ribs. Our score was a 174.857, not bad considering 180 is a perfect score. Our rib score was the highest score out of any of the four KCBS categories for the 2008 Summer Fest. As the old saying goes, that was then, this is now.

The weatherman spoke more and more about showers for the weekend as the days preceding the event rolled on. I am not even mentioning the tropical storm / hurricane that was also cruising around out in the Atlantic threatening to head further east and raise a little heck. The tropical disturbance stayed well out to sea, so much for using that as an excuse. Nevertheless, the team and I took off late Thursday afternoon for the short drive up to beautiful Lancaster County. This was a first for our squad, loading into a contest site on Thursday evening, and I have to tell you, it won’t be the last.

We arrived around 6 PM and got the entire site set up before dark. It was great, no crowds, plenty of room. Erich and I stopped and bought 2 dozen live large blue crabs, Al brought along some fresh sweet corn and tomatoes, we grilled some burgers and steamed the crabs, man, did we have a feast. It was nice hangin out without the inevitable pressure that a contest brings. There were a few other early arrivals, so we had a bit of a party. It was fun, not that a contest isn’t fun, it was just nice to be able to visit, hangout and kibitz without the worry that comes with cooking a highly competitive contest.

The evening weather threatened a few times, but over all it was very pleasant. We all hit the sack and had a great nights sleep. The morning found the entire park alive with newly arriving teams, working to get into place. Meanwhile the WATG? crew ambled off and took in a little breakfast at a nearby eatery, nice. I think I really like this early arrival stuff. So much for the excuse that I arrived at the contest late and had to rush my trimming and prep work, ahh, no big deal, I am sure I can still come up with a good one.

It began to rain around 7 AM Friday morning and continued on and off for most of the day. The intensity varied and some teams had to set up in a bit of a downpour. We had to make a few sidewall adjustments but overall stayed pretty dry throughout the entire weekend. Friday night found our team dining on homemade spaghetti, salad and fresh baked bread, wow, one thing is for sure, we sure eat well at these events. The precipitation did put a bit of a damper on the evening social activities. I find I really enjoy visiting with the other cooks and wondering around the contest grounds on Friday night. Folks had to make their site rainproof to avoid getting wet, they really didn’t lend themselves to being open for visitors. Everyone sort of just hunkered down, the Friday night visiting certainly suffered. Scratch the excuse that the head cook got too drunk wondering around the park yik yaking with the other cooks, I’m going to have to look a little deeper, this is not going to be easy.

The really heavy rain began sometime just before dark on Friday and continued on until after 1 AM. I would like to be able to use cooker performance related to the weather as an excuse, but the fact is, our cookers were lit, loaded and cooked without so much as a bump in the road. So much for that one. Several members of our team spent the night in their trucks due to the heavy rain. I took a short nap in my new zero gravity chair inside the trailer within eyesight of the cookers. Not a problem all night.

The meats went on and came off with relative ease. We had no real problems, just enough issues to keep the boogieman away. Last years Saturday morning grease fire did not repeat itself, no complainants about that. Overall the morning went well, this contest includes 2 additional categories which we were planning to enter, resulting in a very long morning of turn-ins 11:30-2:00, not quite a marathon, but longer than usual.

After everything thing was in, we talked amongst ourselves during the inevitable product review. I rated our boxes from best to worst, chicken, brisket, pork, then ribs. I liked the taste of the ribs; I just wasn’t satisfied with the way they went into the box. Out of all six boxes, we were running the closest on time with our rib submission. I felt it just didn’t look right. Our pork, well I don’t even want to get started on that one, never our strong suit, some thought it was the best looking pork box yet, For me, we had better taste in Bel Air. Oh well, it was in the hands of the judges. Time would tell bad they really were.

While my top flight team mates broke down and packed the site, I ran up to the upper end of the contest grounds to help a couple of local boys from our neighborhood who were cooking a whole hog in their first contest ever. They had done a great job cooking the entry and just needed a little guidance getting it into the turn-in box. Their meat looked and tasted really good and when they were finished with the box, it looked like it had a real good chance of scoring well, and they had done all the work themselves, who ever said contest cooking was difficult. Perhaps I could blame my rib score on my preoccupation with preparing the whole hog box. That might have worked if, IN FACT, I had done anything to help them boys get that pig into the box. Truth be told, they did most of it themselves, oh well, back to the drawing board. I am sure I can come up with something.

The rain stopped and the sun came out just in time for the awards ceremony in the center of the park. A cup of Lapps homemade ice cream was a welcome snack after a weekend spent in the BBQ smoke. We cheered our friends and even took a few walks ourselves. It wasn’t until after the score sheets were distributed before we knew how bad it really was. Right there in black and white, who are those guys? 67th place ribs. And this was in a in a 72 team field. My buddy Dan from 3 Eyz would say, look at the bright side, we beat 5 teams. Me, I couldn’t see a bright side on this one even if I wasn’t the huge pessimist that my wife claims I am. Addition low lights would be 51st place pork and 31st place overall.

We had traveled from 1st to 67th place in the rib category in one years time. A journey I wouldn’t recommend, even to my worst enemy. As for an excuse, being an avid deer and waterfowl hunter, I am usually never at a loss when it comes to this department. But here on an August day in New Holland, I am excuse-less, without excuse. I thought about some of the old standbys, ‘too windy’, ‘the sun was in my eyes’, or how about, ‘the judges don’t know what they are doing’. The truth of the matter is, I screwed up the ribs and am going to try damn hard not to let it happen again, I only have myself to blame. Maybe a little influence by the now famous BBQ gremlins who rumor has it were spotted in the area disguised as Amish and Mennonite farmers.

In all of the doom and gloom and attempted excuse fabrication I almost forgot to touch on the few highlights of this weekends contest. We had a great time hanging out together on Thursday night. The overall cook went fairly well. The team, again, worked flawlessly together. The hospitality shown by Melvin and his dedicated band of contest organizers makes it easy to see why this contest has become the favorite of many teams and judges on the KCBS circuit, including ours. Oh, and we took 3rd in sausage and 1st place in chicken with a score of 175.4288, again, the highest score for any of the 4 KCBS contest meats. Not too bad for a guy that has about 10,000 hours invested into his chicken cooking methods. I hope I don’t repeat the same slide in my chicken scores when it comes time for the next Summer Fest.

I think I’ll run down to the supermarket this morning, I saw where spareribs are on sale this week, maybe I’ll grab a case or two and do a couple of practice cooks. I wonder if anyone in the neighborhood likes ribs.........

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maryland BBQ Bash- 8/14-8/15 2009

Things are running way too smooth…………

I tossed, turned, fretted and worried during the weeks leading up to the BBQ Bash. What would be the reaction to my blanket e mail informing folks that we would not be hosting the much anticipated party Friday night in Bel Air. Would I be shunned, scorned, stoned, or run out of town on a rail. The answer was none of the above. The overall reaction was that of understanding, support and well wishes. Gee, what a swell group of friends.

Jo and I took the trailer for the short drive to Bel Air Thursday evening and dropped it into our spot. Several teams were already on site while the set up crews were busy erecting fences, placing vendors and exhibitors. Friday was a scheduled day off for me. Al, Jo and I arrived at the site around 9 AM to begin to get things set up. In no time we had the site organized and were working on trimming the meats. Meat trimming went off without a hitch and we even had time to sit a spell and enjoy a bit of people watching. If you have never been to this contest and are in the area, it is a great venue with two day crowd totals over 20,000, meaning there are plenty of people to watch.

It was a beautiful summer evening, warm with a light breeze, couldn’t have been much better. We had some folks stop by, most hung around for a while then went on their way, certainly not any type of a distraction. By 8:30 or so, most folks cleared out and we were free to light the cookers and get things ready for the all night session that was ahead. Dean Ayers of Pork & Deans BBQ fame organized a team dinner for 9:00 Friday night. The spread that was put down was unbelievable. Many said that had never seen so much of a selection at a cooks dinner. What a feed.

Around 11:30 we took a walk around the contest and found most sites quiet and most cooks horizontal. A bit unusual, but not unheard of. We returned to our site and found our cooker purring along, topped her off with charcoal, then bedded down for the night. Wow, we might even get some sleep. I sat in my new zero gravity chair placed in front of the Tallboy and slept with one eye open. The Guru alarm never sounded the entire night, the cooker was dead on temp, no muss, no fuss.

Daybreak found the who are those guys? crew loading the ribs into the smoke. The big meats were on schedule and began to make their way onto the Cambro to be held until turn-in. The contest organizers put out a very nice continental breakfast that as far as I knew, had been previously unannounced. We noshed on bagels, muffins and sweet buns while our big meats finished their cook, right on schedule. The sauces were made, the chicken was prepped, so far, no problems, not even a hiccup. I even had time for a little late morning walk about. While drifting around exchanging pleasantries, in the back of my mind I was thinking, man, what would I give for some type of a problem. Not a big one, but something to knock the shine off of this morning and get us more focused.

I stopped by and wished my friends Dan & Jason with 3 Eyz BBQ good luck. Dan asked the inevitable question, “hows it going?” I proceeded to tell him the morning was running like a finely tuned engine, no problems, no troubles. As I railed on I could see the apprehension in Dan’s expression as I am sure he could hear the trepidation in my voice. Dan just stood there, shaking his head, “kiss of death” he was heard to say, “why don’t you go over there and cut yourself or drop something heavy on your foot, there is still time!”. We both had a good laugh, but deep down, I knew he was right.

I returned to the site to begin the chicken cook, again, the procedure was on auto pilot. My friend and cooking instructor Tom Meyer was joining us as a guest member on the team for this contest. He was a big help and jumped in like he had been prepping boxes all along. It seemed like the boxes went together without problems, although, we did venture into the backside of the turn-in window on several occasions, we never were really rushed.

Our stuff was in, we had no issues, no fights, no yelling, no disagreements, something just wasn’t right. I wasn’t very happy with what we sent to the judges, but that is another story. I ranked our submissions, pork, chicken, brisket, then ribs. After reviewing the results, I wasn’t far off. We did not get a call to the stage, at this contest; they call the top 8 spots. We finished 7th overall. We were the highest overall finish without a call to the stage. The next overall placement without a call was 16th. No complainants, just a good, solid, consistent cook, just no dingers, no homeruns. Its like we are hitting doubles, some triples, we are reliable, but can’t hit the long ball.

Rest assured, we will keep swinging, watching game film, practicing and working on our game. I don’t think we are far off, at least I hope we are not. What I am fairly certain of, another trouble/issue/problem free cook occurring during one of our remaining two contests for this year is not likely. Mr. Murphy, a longtime lurker throughout my entire life, will not permit that to happen. On the outside chance that he is asleep on the job, I know the gremlins are laying in wait just around the corner, just waiting for the chance to spring into action.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Bel Air Quandary

Between a rock and a hard place

Regular readers of this blog and friends of ours will know that the Bel Air BBQ Bash is our home contest. Located in the town of Bel Air, it is only about ten minutes from my home. This year will mark 5 years for me at this event counting the 2 years I cooked the Tailgater Challenge on Friday night. Each year I have cooked the event, I have asked a few folks to drop by and visit. The team whips up some extra grub for our guests and it usually turns into a great evening. Needless to say, the guest list has grown over the years due to my extra large claptrap. After the 2007 contest, which included a large crowd of folks on Friday evening, the team threatened mutiny at first, but later softened on their position and let me alone for 2008. Not really voicing a yea or nea.

That was until last year. By our calculations, we had about 150 visitors to our 20x20 site on Friday night, and that was just the people I could remember. The evening went off very well due to the team chipping in and we had plenty of food. But to say that it was a bit distracting, especially when the real reason we are there at all is to cook a BBQ contest, is a bit of an understatement. To say I have heard plenty of mutinous talk since that fine evening last August, would also be an understatement. It all came to a head last month while we were in Green Lane Pa, it was there that I was read the riot act and told if I was planning on a repeat performance, I would be flying solo. This time I think they mean business, I could see it in their eyes.

Since that night, I have spent many hours pondering the situation. The worse part is, I think I have to agree with the team, as much as it pains me to do so. It has become distracting, with all of the prep and site work involved in competing in a contest, added together catering a party for 150 people, and you’ve got a heck of a lot of work to do. Last year, we still had a full site after 10:00 pm as we were working to get our big meats into the cooker. Very distracting. It is almost a stretch when you try and call cooking in a BBQ contest ‘fun’, but add in a Friday night catering gig on the same weekend and you’ve got what I call a lot of work to do. Sort of takes what little fun is there and puts it into kibosh mode.

As you can see, I have quite a quandary on my hands. The question is not should I still have the Friday night party complete with beer and a buffet line, I have pretty much decided on nixing the food and drink for Friday. The question is, what I tell all of the friends and family that have come to enjoy the evening of socializing in the streets of Bel Air each year at the BBQ Bash. Many of whom, have been stopping by since my days in the Tailgater.

My teammates seem to have come up with a very good solution. Since the contest is so close, we all have a fairly short drive, why not tell folks to stop in on Saturday, after turn-ins and sample some of the competition food. We always have plenty of food; the festival itself runs till Saturday night, sounds like a good idea to me. I realize this would be a first for the WATG? team. Usually, we are all buttoned up before the awards and bug out just as soon as they are over. But I think the idea is a win win. The visitors will get some good grub and we can concentrate on cooking the contest.

Those that know me know I like to have a good time. The past Friday nights at the Bash have been a blast, the team and I will all admit. If you look at the time and money that is committed to cooking a contest, suddenly, the thought of a Friday night party starts to loose its luster, especially to the guys on the team. So, I am thinking of sending out an email explaining the change in what has become a summer tradition and see what happens. I think the team and I will plan on slipping out after the cooks meeting and eating dinner at one of the watering holes in the town of Bel Air. That way, we will avoid having folks dropping in while we are trying to eat.

Saturday afternoon, after turn-ins and awards, we will all be dining on some mighty-fine BBQ products, sitting back and relaxing, just like it was Friday night, only without the pressure. Wait a minute, on Saturday afternoon I have trouble sneaking up on a plate of BBQ, oh well, that much more for the guests, maybe I will just send out for a pizza.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beltway BBQ Showdown, June 13-14 2009

‘The Fire Marshal’ Fact or Fiction

The third annual Beltway BBQ Showdown was scheduled for Saturday Sunday June 13 2009 at the Prince Georges County Equestrian Center located in Upper Marlboro Maryland. Three years ago, this was the first ever KCBS contest that we ever cooked, there were 15 teams that year. This year, contest organizer Jonathan Jones has grown the event to include 47 teams. The contest was to be held on Sat/Sun, a first for our team. The good thing is no one had to take a day off of work for the contest. The bad news is, there would be no day of rest before heading back to work on Monday.

A contest week e mail from the organizer noted that all tents, tarps, and Ezy-ups had to be rated fire retardant, (you must present certification from the manufacturer), no alcoholic beverages could be brought into the contest grounds, and all glass bottles were strictly prohibited. Needless to say, this last minute declaration of these various rules, regulations and edicts was met with quite the backlash on the numerous BBQ forums that I occasionally visit. PDF files of flame retardant certifications were sent about along with scanned copies and web addresses for those that were searching for even more info. Dan from 3 Eyz even volunteered to dispose of anyone’s unwanted alcoholic beverages if they were accidentally brought to the contest grounds. I am sure he was only interested in keeping fellow BBQers out of trouble with the long arm of the law. Sort of like jumping on the grenade, so to speak, what a guy.

The equestrian center is used weekdays this time of year to host area high school graduations. The contest grounds had been pressed into service as an overflow parking area the week before the event was to be held. The weather leading up to the scheduled weekend consisted of thunder showers and storms almost every evening. As you well know, wet, grass fields, cars and large amounts of rain usually do not go well together. I spoke to Jonathon earlier in the week and was told the field had become a bit greasy. He assured me he was on it, time would tell.

The forecast for the weekend was for a slight chance of showers or thunder showers, I think like 30%. The up side was, that is 70% chance of no rain, and I like those odds. Besides, we had not had rain at a contest yet, why start now. Friday night I loaded the trailer with all of my uncertified flame attracting canopies along with 3 cases of long neck Corona bottles for the two day cook down in PG County. After all, who can cook BBQ without drinking a beer? I know I can’t, well, its not that I cant, its more like I wont. And I figured, if my canopies caught fire, I could dose the flames with cold Corona.

When we arrived on site around 10 AM on Saturday morning we were greeted by Jonathan himself. All around the contest grounds mixed in with the teams already set up were trucks, equipment, and workers busy spreading, raking, tamping and rolling. It looked like ants on an anthill, everyone moving about, getting it done. I wonder if one of those guys is the Fire Marshal?

We were assigned a spot, were given some instructions, and began to set up. Everyone was there this weekend and we had my neighbor Tony Melvin along for the ride. Tony is a Quer that has recently, along with his wife, become a KCBS certified BBQ judge. Tony was interested in seeing the contest from the perspective of the cooking teams. I hoped this experience wouldn’t scare him away.

We set up in record time and had just sat down to relax a minute when Big Jon, the organizer pulled up with some County official in his golf cart, (not the Fire Marshal), and asked if we would please adjust our setup to move the cooking area. The Fire Marshal himself would be by later and wanted all of the cookers in a certain spot. With reluctant enthusiasm and a few select comments mumbled, the gang pulled together and rearranged the entire site to accommodate the wishes of the yet to be seen Marshal. Who was this guy with all of this power, Matt Dillon?

After we set up for the second time, we began our prep work which came off like clockwork, in fact, we were finished early. Perhaps we finished so quickly because some very threatening clouds were bearing down on us and several nearby folks said the radars on their phones looked like we were going to get drenched. No matter, everything was prepped and in the cooler in record time. We sat around and even had time for a quick nap. We dined on fried crab cakes and enjoyed a beautiful evening listing to a great blues band brought in to play for the cooks. The grounds were not open to the public on Saturday, so the music was for our ears only, and it was good, what a night. The storm cloud had passed and it appeared we had dodged the bullet. Still, no sign of the Fire Marshal.

I have never met a Fire Marshal. In my mind, I am picturing a guy in a department issued turn-out coat, rubber boots, and a fire helmet with a huge star in the center. He even has a star pinned to his coat. The guy is cruising the contest grounds in a beefed up golf cart, painted red of course, complete with a full light bar and siren set up. On the front and back of the cart, are various extinguishers and assorted other fire fighting apparatus. I am thinking, this guy, who ever he is, is carrying a large 3 ring notebook containing all of the local ordinances and regulations. Attached to the front of the binder is a smaller citation booklet used to cite offenders and scofflaws. I think that this is a misconception, but am not sure, having never met one in person, at least, not yet.

The early evening was not completely uneventful. As Big Jon ventured past out site yet again, this time with some other County Official riding shotgun, he again stopped at our site. “George” he began,” “you are really letting me down”, my pea brain, thinking this was a set up line from Jonathan, as he usually has a great sense of humor on display at all times, replied, “hows that?” “Remember that e mail I sent about the glass bottles and the alcoholic beverages?” Jon inquired. Now it began to make sense, this must be the Glass or the Beer Marshal. Me being the quick speaking without thinking, slow witted fat man that I am, replied like any beer drinking BBQ cook worth his weight in brisket would, “there is not a drop of beer in our site!”

Now it was all making sense, Jonathan was putting on a show for the Beer Marshal, showing how he was enforcing the rules on this unruly gang of BBQ cooks, and he wanted my help. I knew I was safe, cause back at the site the gang was all using can/bottle coolers or cups, there wasn’t a visable open container to be found. The Marshal glared at me with disgust,. “there is a bottle right over there on your table”. She might as well finished her statement with the thought that she had, “you jackass you”. Busted cold. This wasn’t a good sign; could the elusive Fire Marshal be far behind?

After dinner, a fine cigar, a few beers in glass bottles, (the Beer Marshal let me off with a warning and the promise that we would not open another can or bottle of beer until after dark), no rain, no Fire Marshal, this was going to be alright after all. Along about midnight, just as we were preparing to nest up for the night, the air got that feel, and we started to see a good bit of lightning. The cookers were over the required 10’ away from my non flame retardant canopies. We use a Guru, which is an electric fan and controller on our Caldera Tallboy. I am no electrician, but I do know that water and electric parts do not go well together. What if we were to move the 8X8 canopy over the cookers to keep them dry? What if the Fire Marshal came by? Did they work second and third shifts? Most fireman I know do.

What the hell, we had already violated 2 out of 3 of the last minute rules. I no longer had any credibility with Jonathan or the Beer /Glass Marshal. Why not go for the tri-facta? Boys, grab a corner. As we carried the canopy to the cooking area, I felt like I was being watched. Was the FM out there watching, waiting, for his chance to pounce, citation book at the ready. I felt that if he were to appear, we wouldn’t walk away with a stern warning this time, we were going down.

It wasn’t long before it was pouring cats, dogs, chickens and pigs. No long after it started, the large amounts of rain, which had no where to go on the large very flat, freshly graded and packed dirt and gravel field, began to puddle and pool up. We had a class 3 stream moving through our site at the height of the storm and about a 3 acre pond when it was all over. Not to worry, we dug a trench with our charcoal shovel and drained all our water onto our neighbors the 3 Eyz BBQ team. What are neighbors for? Besides, I figured the heavy rain and swift moving water would keep the Marshal away.

We planned to move the cover back away from the cookers as soon as the rain stopped, but forgot. The next morning came and went, still no visit, the canopy remaining in clear violation, as if I was actually baiting him, and in a way I was. I wanted him, the big time Fire Marshal, the one that made all the fuss, to come out, to show his face. Come out in your hopped up golf cart with your siren blazing, just like on the TV show COPS, and move in for the capture. Maybe, they could even have a film crew following on foot, or better yet, filming from a circling chopper as the FM moved in and took us out for violating the fire code. For a moment, I thought I could here a muted chorus of ‘Bad Boys” drifting in the wind.

But alas, it was not to be. There was no visit from the Fire Marshal; he would not take the bait. Does he exist? I really don’t know. Perhaps, he is just a legendary figure, like Paul Bunyon, or Davey Jones, used to scare folks into submission. What I do know for sure is, Jonathan and his crew of hard working County employees worked long and hard for the entire time that we cooks were on site to make sure everyone had what they needed and to try to improve the condition of everyone’s site. Overall, I think they did a fine job, and I look for this contest to continue to grow and improve.

Congrats to our friends 3 Eyz BBQ for taking the Grand Championship trophy home, along with top prize in both chicken and ribs. Kenny, Bob, Fred and the BBQ Guru were reserve Grand Champs and took 1st place honors in pork. Chris Capel and the Dizzy Pig boys won brisket and were 3rd over all. The ‘who are those guys?’ team were called to the stage twice, for chicken and ribs and were 4th overall. It has been since May of last year since we have received a chicken call, I hope the trend continues.

The best part of the weekend was standing next to Dan Hixon from 3 Eyz BBQ during the awards ceremony. After collecting two firsts along with a 4th place brisket, it was more or less assumed by the crowd on hand that Dan and the 3 Eyz crew would walk for GC. The announcer called the BBQ Guru for reserve as the suspense built. Then, they decided while they had everyone’s undivided attention, to make a public service announcement, thank a few folks for doing a fine job, and draw the events winning raffle ticket. The raffle winner, who was not immediately available, was called to the stage several times as Big Dan Hixon quietly took the gas pipe while waiting for the naming of the eventual winner. It seemed like forever, but I know it was only a few minutes, I am sure it seemed like hours to my friend Dan. Finally, he got the call and took the walk, congratulations on a well deserved win.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


BBQ News now available on line.

For those that do not know and may be interested, (I realize of course I have severely limited my audience by including those that may be ‘interested’) I am now writing monthly columns in both the KCBS Bullsheet and the National BBQ News. The BBQ News is going to start an online paper and for now it is free. Check out the link below, turn to page 19, then click enlarge, check out the mug on that guy!!


You will have to copy and paste the above link to your browser, as I could not get the link to work.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Important Announcement!

and thoughts on getting out on a high note

Those that know me know I am a huge Seinfeld fan. Do you remember the episode where George decides he wants to leave on a high note? Does the old saying ‘quit while your ahead’ ring a bell?

The other day while surfing around the net I came upon the National BBQ Rankings. I was causally perusing the listings of overall standings and there it was, in bold print, ‘who are those guys? ranked number 117 overall. This is out of 3,536 teams that are currently ranked. I then clicked over to The Pickled Pig Power Ranking, and there we were listed at 118. I have looked at these rankings once in a while in the past, but don’t check them on a regular basis. Not that it doesn’t matter; it’s just that I don’t bother to look each week to see where we are, or more importantly, where we’ve been, as the ranking changes each time they enter another set of contest results.

Wow, to say I was shocked would be an understatement. Looking at some of the team names listed above and below our squad and I saw some of the premier teams from around the region and the country. A pretty nice neighborhood to be hangin out in, that’s for sure. The really amazing thing for me is, we only cooked 7 contests last year and are scheduled to do only 6 in 2009. I am not quite sure how the rankings are tabulated, but you can rest assured, I ain’t complaining.

After much reflection, I got to wondering, as I often do. Is this like going hunting and shooting a whopper buck during your first couple of hunts? Here we are, only into our third season and we are ranked, and not just for the number of beers consumed at a contest. Then I got to thinking, maybe we should fold it up, get out on a high note. The chances of getting any higher are right slim in my opinion. Is there any way we can freeze time and stay in this spot, at least for a year or two while we enjoy the view?

We have our third event of the season coming up next week in Upper Marlboro MD, this is the halfway point of our season. The way I figure it, if we pull the plug right now, quit while we’re ahead, we should be able to ride it out in the top 200 or so at least until wintertime. Not a bad way to finish out the year, in what I would call a very highly competitive field of cooks and pit masters. Upon further thought, it occurred to me, maybe, just maybe, we could improve our position, move up a notch or two in our next couple of outings. I realize it is a gamble, especially when I look at the team lists for the contests we have yet to cook, but what the hell, most of them are neighbors, and I like to at least try to keep up with the Jones. If we are lucky enough to break the top 100, then maybe we’ll take our ball and head for the door…..we’ll see….

I also wanted to take a minute to announce our first official sponsor. 3 Eyz BBQ Rub,http://www.3eyzbbq.com/, has become an official sponsor of the ‘who are those guys?’ BBQ Team. The 3 Eyz BBQ rub is a great product. Dan, Jason & Dan produced the rub with pork in mind, and it has done pretty well. Last year they took 2nd Place for BBQ Rub at the Great American BBQ Contest held the end of May each year. Their product was up against some of the biggest names in the BBQ business.

This year, the 3 Eyz boys improved their position and came home with a 1st Place trophy for BBQ rub, not bad for a couple of guys from Maryland, which is basically known for its seafood, not BBQ. Good thing they didn't decide to quit after finishing #2 eh?

Their rub is excellent on ribs and slow cooked pork as designed.As you can imagine, I have taken their product up a notch or two, I have used it with great success on chicken, brisket and even seafood. Salmon and mahi mahi cooked on the grill are great with 3 Eyz rub. I have even, dare I say it, used this product instead of that yellow can while mixing crab cakes and other crab dishes. And guess what, the cops didn’t knock the door down to arrest me for making a crab dish in Maryland and not using the yellow can. They did, however, stop by and enjoy some nicely spiced crab balls I jazzed up using the 3 Eyz BBQ Rub.

If you haven’t given it a try yet, I encourage you to do so. The rub is available on their website, the link is above, and at any contest they are competing. Also, some select fine shops around town, the complete list of vendors selling 3 Eyz Rub is also available on their site, give it a try, you will be pleased with the results.

Wow, I sound just like one of those race car drivers during a post race interview.Oh well, we have a sponsor and are proud of it! Thanks to Dan, Jason and Dan of 3 Eyz BBQ for choosing us to represent your fine product.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Smoke in the Valley- Green Lane, PA 5/15-5/16 2009

Good friends, good times, times five.

I have lamented in the past about BBQ contest’s and the folks that compete in them. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (I wonder if anyone under the age of 25 even knows what a broken record is), I feel I must reiterate.

First, let me say, cooking in a BBQ contest is a heck of a lot of work. I am not even considering the pre and post work that is involved. From the time we arrive at the site on Friday late morning/afternoon, we barely have a chance to sit down, let alone relax. You say up late Friday night then sleep under a canopy on a fold up cot for a few hours. Get up with the sun on Saturday morning, work all morning, get your boxes to the judges then receive your score. You then pack up what you just set up 20hours before, then drive several hours back to your home. Sounds like a blast doesn’t it?

Did I mention no showers and spending countless hours on your feet? Oh, and how about dealing with the weather, heat, humidity, wind, rain, uneven sites, mosquitoes, slippery grass, overflowing spot-a-pots, loud neighbors, and water that taste like garden hose. Then there is always the obnoxious drunk that stops by your sight while you are doing some prep work on Friday night and wants to tell you how great of a cook he is, all the while he can barely even stand up straight. And no, I am not talking about my team mates!

There is meat to be trimmed, sauces to make, boxes to build, dishes to wash and grates to be scrubbed. Unpacking, setting up, repacking, and this is if every thing is running smoothly. Please, form a neat orderly line, no pushing or shoving in order to sign up.

Keep in mind, we are PAYING to have all of this fun. That’s right, laying out hard earned greenbacks and burning a vacation time from work just to be able to play. And the cost, please, don’t tell my wife. You have the entry fee, the beer, the cost of the meats you are cooking, the beer, gasoline, tolls, camp food, camp beer, charcoal, beer, sauces and seasonings, garnish, tequila, well, you get the picture. I haven’t even mentioned the equipment cost, cookers, beer, trucks, trailers, beer, I have to stop or I’ll want to quit.

This gets me to my point. I would never even consider cooking a contest by myself. I have seen it done and done quite well. My hat is tipped to those that have pulled it off, but it is just not for me. The first and most obvious reason is for the sheer amount of work involved. As a somewhat portly, out of shape, on the back side of middle aged, wanna-be BBQ cook, flying solo at a contest would do me in. I have four super team mates that work as hard or harder than I when we are at a contest and when I get home on Saturday evening, I’m whooped.

The other more significant reason I wouldn’t do a contest solo is I would miss the fun we have as a team. I look forward to each contest as a great chance to spend time with my friends and my wife. As well as the chance to see my BBQ friends, old and new, I have met along the way.

Even though we are in the middle of a park somewhere in a town we don’t know, our gang always manages to have a good time. We will have a nice meal on Friday night, and then we wander around to visit with the other teams. Occasionally sipping a few drinks. Sometimes, we will prepare breakfast Saturday morning, either way; we have a lot of fun with an awful lot of laughs.

Speaking of friends, in my short time hanging out with this BBQ crowd I have been very fortunate to meet some really nice folks. Some I have met on-line in some of the various BBQ forums that I visit from time to time. Others I have met in person at the different contests we have cooked. Usually, after a conversation or two, it’s as though we have known each other for years.

This past weekend in Green Lane PA I was fortunate to have my old friends, my wife and a new friend hanging out with me. Bobby, Erich, Al, and Jo are my team and whose help I could not do without. Steve, better known as Sledneck, is a fellow Qer I met through the BBQ Brethren Forum. I invited Steve to hang out with us at Green Lane as he has been hoppled recently with a bad ankle injury.

Steve limped into our site mid-day on Friday and after some brief introductions and small talk was just one of the gang. Believe me when I tell you, his temporary handicap didn’t buy him any slack from the usual sharp barbs hurled around by the WATG crew, it was like he had been cooking with us from the start, and in a way, he has. Everyone one that I have met along this BBQ road that I travel is a part of my team, whether they like it or not! My buddy Steve aka Sledneck was no exception, he fit right in with the others. By midday Saturday as I walked briefly around the contest grounds I could hear the laughs coming from our site, good times, good friends, this is what it is all about.

For me, the time spent with my friends, old and new, is why I like to que. Sure, we could just stay home, surf the net, save some money, watch a movie, light the gas grill, toss on a few steaks, clean up with running water, take a shower and sleep in a nice comfortable bed. But it just wouldn’t be the same; we would be missing the contest ambiance and the camaraderie, both huge in my book. Not to mention the laughs.

The contest at Green Lane was a first time event run by the local volunteer fire company. The organizers did a great job taking care of the teams and ran the show like they had been hosting contests for the past 10 years. We had folks stopping by every hour or two asking if we needed anything, the service was phenomenal. Lo & Slo BBQ from New Jersey took the grand championship, congratulations to them. We were lucky enough to grab the reserve spot and we are very grateful.

The weather was great even though the weather man did his best the preceding week to rain on our parade. It threatened, but never rained. Good weather, great friends, tasty food, gracious hosts, and cold beer. I can’t think of a nicer way of spending the night in the middle of a municipal park in Green Lane Pennsylvania. You know the State motto of PA is “you’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania”, well, last Friday night, I was lucky enough to have five.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time travel…the year is 1973 and we didn’t have to use the ‘Wayback Machine’

Kenwood High School Class of 1973 35th Class Reunion Saturday April 25, 2009

A word of warning to some of my regular readers, this post is not BBQ related.

Last Saturday night, I ventured to my 35th class reunion which was being held one year late due to a change in the reunion committee. My wife and I arrived at the hall with our good friends Jack and Renee and were greeted at the entrance way with some blue and white balloons, (our school colors), tied to a walker, at least someone has a sense of humor. Once inside, Jack leaned over and asked me “did we go to school with all of these old people?”

From that point on it seemed like we had stepped back into time. All of the sudden, it was 1973 as I wondered around shaking hands and hugging anyone with a nametag on. At one point, I think I hugged one of the wait staff. She was a good sport about it. My wife said she didn’t buy the story that I thought the young lady had graduated in our class, as she probably wasn’t even born yet when we left the hallowed halls of KHS. But that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

I have a very good recollection of names and faces from 30 years ago, even though I can’t remember what I had for lunch half the time. I amazed myself identifying some of the folks that I went to school with. The class reunion is a funny event. You see a person that you used to sit next to for 3 years of high school and haven’t seen in 20-30 years and after a few minutes of conversation, its like you left school just last week.

The other interesting phenomenon about a reunion is, after the initial greeting, some catch up small talk, there is an awkward pause as you try and find an exit line. Early in the evening, it was very difficult, but as the night wore on I got it down and moved around the room like the 18 year old that I once was, only with a little more girth.

The best part was seeing the old friends. In our early fifties now, it seemed that most of the inhibitions were gone. Jocks, nerds, geeks and prom queens all stood together hugging and talking about life, kids, grand kids, and the good old days. It was if we were all young again, at least for a few hours, no worries, no concerns, just friends, old stories and what was left of our fading memories.

It reminded me of the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Glory Days’. It seems as more and more water passes under my bridge it becomes harder for me to listen to that song without welling up. Talk about hitting home, that song does it to me every time. It sucks getting old, but, it does beat the alternative.

The shot of reality came when speaking with folks. I heard success stories, tragic tales, cancer survivors, retirements, marriages (some for the 3rd or 4th time), grandkids, cancer patients, and of course the ever growing list of those no longer with us. The reunion organizers did a very nice tribute to that group of classmates, which made everyone stop, think, remember and reflect.

The DJ played a mix of tunes from our school years and today and some of the folks even got up to dance. It seemed like everyone that attended really enjoyed themselves. Except of course the spouses who could be observed sitting quietly at the tables or standing with hands folded in the background, occasionally glancing at their watches. Time standing still for them I am sure.

But alas, as quick as the evening began, the lights were coming up signaling it was time to go home. Many stood around hugging and exchanging contact information that will probably never be used. A few of the hardy ones announced some were adjourning to a nearby watering hole, this reunion we would miss. Some made the suggestion that we should do this every year. A good idea, but somehow, I think some of the luster would get lost in the sauce. Once every five years is perfect.

As our classmates made their way to the exits for their journeys back to reality, I believe the thought many people had was, ‘this is the beginning of the end’. While statistics say many will live well into their 80’s-90’s, reality is, the list on the table in the corner will do nothing but grow, that’s life. The truth of the matter is, we are approaching the backside of middle age, which is a fact. One only needed to look around the lighted room for confirmation if it was needed.

I think that was why I could see the occasional tear in many people’s eyes as we stood and said our goodbyes. Everyone promising to stay in touch, but again, reality is, we know we probably wont and just hope to be lucky enough to meet again in another 5 years for another trip to down memory lane.

Everyone is so busy just living life and trying to survive, sometimes all we can do is just hang on, hope and go along for the ride. It is for that reason, you must be sure to enjoy the good times when they present themselves, like they did for us on Saturday night. As a wise old man once said, (not me, I sure as hell ain’t wise), ‘life is too short’. I believe we are all beginning to see the truth in those profound words of wisdom.

The next day as I reflected on the preceding night’s events, I felt fortunate to be able to attend the reunion and blessed to be able to see many of the folks that were a large part of my younger days. I am also very thankful to have remained close with a handful of folks from those early years and extremely lucky to have them as friends today.

The 2009 organizing committee did an outstanding job preparing the time capsule for our journey. The year 2013 will be here before we know it. I hope there will be another gathering of our classmates for our 40th year reunion. I also pray that the guest list for the table in the corner doesn’t grow too quickly, there are already too many people sitting there.

As folks took off for the ride home and back to the year 2009, I am sure many reached for the antacid, Tylenol, and the Ben-gay. Many nursing upset stomachs, sore and swollen feet and aching backs, after all, we are nothing but a bunch of old farts! Give me three Tylenol and pass me my Rolaids, its way past my bedtime.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pork in the Park - Salisbury Maryland - April 17-18 2009

The best laid plans……yada yada yada

My wife Jo and I have been taking regular monthly cooking classes for the past 5 years or so with a small group that have become good friends. Last fall, we cooked a dish that both Jo and I thought was off the charts. A pistachio crusted rockfish, stuffed with a crabmeat and scallop mousse. The dish was topped with a beurre blanc sauce; it was a hit with everyone at class that night.

We had friends over during the winter and served the very same dish and again it received rave reviews. I cooked it at the regular Christmas dinner for the gang that I went to high school with and even had non seafood eaters gobbling it up. Big on flavor, a little wow factor, great taste and texture, this dish had it all.

Of course, my mind was working, could I pull this off at Salisbury this year for the anything butt entry. The dish was fairly simple to make, you only needed to bake it at 350 for about 30 minutes. Overall, very easy to prepare, much can be done in advance, hmmmm, it is looking good. I wonder about the seafood availability.

Last weekend I stopped at our local seafood monger and inquired as to the possibilities. The young man behind the counter seemed to glaze over when I started asking about dry scallops, FRESH rockfish and jumbo lump crabmeat, he suggested that I call first thing Monday morning and speak to Joe, the manager.

Monday morning found me on the horn to seafood manger Joe, He assured me he could procure everything that I requested and would have it ready for pickup on Thursday afternoon. The only thing left was to figure out how to serve my entry.

For the ‘anything butt’ category at this contest, regular KCBS garnish rules do not apply. The only restriction was the submission had to fit into a ½ aluminum pan. Jo and I scoured Bel Air for days looking for just the right dish to place my, what was sure to be a top five finishing entry, into. We finally found the perfect size and shaped dish, and the best part was, they were only 2 bucks a piece.

The long winded point that I am trying to make here is I put an awful lot of time and money, (jumbo lump crabmeat at $32.00 a pound) into this dish.

Now, let’s talk dessert. Wife Jo would not be attending the Salisbury contest this year due to an out of state wedding she was invited to the same weekend. When it came time to decide between spending two days on your feet in a field or going to Florida for a few days, well, you know what happened to my dessert cook.

I next tried to bribe my niece Jackie who lives in New York to come down and cook the dessert entry. She is a student at the Culinary Institute of America, a phenomenal pastry chief and cake decorator, in other words, she’s a ringer. She’s also a lot of fun to have around. Who, in their right mind could turn down two days in a grass field, cooking and hanging out with their favorite Uncle and a couple of his beer drinking, cigar smoking, somewhere on the back side of middle aged buddies? I don’t think you could find a 20 something girl anywhere in the country that would rather do anything else, what a weekend it would be, it is what dreams are made for. Unfortunately, (or fortunately), for Jackie, she had to work and could not make it. She missed the cultural and culinary experience of a lifetime, maybe next year.

Oh well, we just wouldn’t do the dessert. I already had the anything butt in the bag. The clock was ticking. Sometime, late Tuesday afternoon, it hit me, I could do the dessert. I had a recipe for a pecan dish that would kill, yea, we’ll do it! No time to shop for dishes, I would just cut it into squares and place them into the tray, the dish, after all, was called ‘Pecan Squares’.

I copied the list of ingredients onto my shopping list and it was off to the races. Everything was on tract until we arrived at the contest site. It took Arthur and I a little longer than usual to set the camp, then we had a huge wind come through and do a little damage which set us back about 1 ½ hours. Meat trimming took a little longer than usual due to an additional step or two in my chicken program. Bottom line, we were behind.

I was bound and determined to get the anything butt entry to the judges, after all, there was $1,000 in prize money that would go a long way to buying a new trailer. It was mine for the plucking, money in the bank.

Three times during the late afternoon I announced to anyone that would listen that we were not going to do dessert. There just wasn’t time. Wait a minute, I glanced at the recipe, (for the first time since last fall) and figured we would only need 45 minutes of baking, we had an hour after the award winning anything butt submission went in, it was doable, desert was on.

Bobby got things started, blending the dry ingredients while I worked with Arthur and Erich assembling the sauce. We got it in the cooker just in the nick of time. The way it looked, the pan would be finished baking at about 7:50, which would give us enough time to cut into squares before building the box.

At about 7:45 I decided to take one last look at the recipe. It was then I noticed the next to the last step, “cool in refrigerator for 40 minutes before slicing into squares.” This blunder on my part illustrates what normal preparation and readiness can do when properly carried out. In this case, I was again on the short end of a stick, and the only one I had to blame was myself.

My first thought was to keep it quiet, how hard could it be to slice? I would whack it into squares and stick them into the box, no problem. That was until I removed the pan from the cooker. I stood staring at a molten hot pan of bubbling butter, sugar and pecans’, slicing into squares was not an option. Tick tock the clock never stops. Turn-in for this entry opened at 7:50 while I stared at the pan of lava this time came and went, what to do? Give up, not an option. Think.

I have an idea, Bobby, take the remaining heavy cream and whip it with some sugar. Erich, lets you and I cut some Styrofoam coffee cups to size to fit into a ½ pan. Pass me that spoon. The finished product at this time was very runny; I could scoop it out along with some of the crust. This I would dump into the cut down coffee cups, we would put a cup of whipped cream into the center, in each cup we would place a spoon, plastic was all we had, it would have to do, it goes well with a Styrofoam cup anyway!

Arthur drizzled the cups with some melted chocolate and there you have it, time? 8:03 someone cried out. I took the box and started towards the judge’s tent. This was my first trip in that direction for the day, I had not attended the cooks meeting and wasn’t exactly sure were the table would be set. I noticed I did not see the normal stream of runners heading towards the judges, most were coming back, having already dropped their boxes with plenty of time to spare.

It was then I heard a voice, “George, you’d better hustle, it is 8:04”. Who ever yelled that, thank you, I thought I had plenty of time. Those in the know will tell you that anything after 8:05 is not good. I began to run. Now, picture this if you dare, an over the hill, more than slightly rotund, athletically challenged, with two left feet BBQ cook with a dirty apron holding a ½ pan out in front of his self while he attempts to move his large frame without stumbling over his own extra large two feet. Funny, would be an under statement.

I dropped the box on the judges table at 8:04 and 45 seconds, what’s the rush? I had a whole 15 seconds to spare, yea right.

I suppose now you expect me to launch into the awards and how it was so exciting to walk forward to collect our first place prize for the anything butt category. My well planned, overly expensive AB entry. Well, let me give you the thumbnail version, who are those guys? Anything butt 43rd place, dessert 7th place. Ah, the benefits of a well planned and well executed contest submission. Just goes to show you, well….., I don’t have a clue.

The next day the KCBS portion of the contest went fairly smooth for WATG? Considering this was our first outing for the year. There were 92 teams entered and we finished 5th overall. Our only call to the stage was for 3rd place brisket. We were also very fortunate to receive the award given for the highest scoring Maryland team in the contest, which included a very nice prize and of course those ever important braggin rights.The contest was won by my friend Steve Farin cooking as I Smell Smoke. Steve was cooking with his parents and it was his birthday. Congratulations and Happy Birthday!

The moral of this post is to never say never. Like the Marine Corps, improvise, overcome, adapt. If you run into a problem, don’t panic, think, then work around it, do your best, or some other B-movie cliché. As for me, I gotta start thinking about my AB submission for next year, how about a bowl of chips with some salsa? Something easy, not a lot of planning, something with some yada yada yada.

Bloggers note:
Friday evening two folks stopped by our site on separate occasions to visit. They both commented on how much they enjoyed reading this blog. I was able to acknowledge their visit with a thank you but little else. As you can see from the above story, I was up to my ears in alligators Friday evening. I want to thank you for the kind words about the blog and I hope you get to stop by again sometime when we will have a minute to talk que.