Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tunes to Que by

BBQ Boogie

Go onto any of the current BBQ forums and ask the question what Pit Masters consider most important when it comes to cooking good que and see what happens. Of course, it goes without saying that you will get the standard boring run of the mill answers. You know, temperature control, knowing your cooker, good quality meat products, blah blah blah. Ask those same Pit Masters what they feel is essential to cooking good que and inevitably you’ll get the answers, good friends, cold adult beverages, and good quality tunes.

Depending upon who you ask and when, you might even be told the last 3 are more important than the first 3. The topic of what would be considered good quality tunes to que by can elicit a discussion as spirited as to which type of cooker is best. A stroll around a mid sized BBQ competition to take in the musical offerings will find an assortment of tastes ranging from head-banging to jazz to classical.

Sometimes, you can take a look at the make up of the team and pretty much predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy what type of tune will be emanating from their I-Pod speakers. A group of 50+ year old men, chances are you’ll be listening to a mixture of classic rock and the blues. Toss in a couple female teammates you can be sure a few country tunes will be heard. A couple of early 30’s cookers and your likely in for a few selections from Slipknot or Korn. At the risk of sounding too much like my parents back in the late 60’s, for the life of me, I don’t understand how they can call that stuff music, but I will leave that discussion for another day.

For us, a group consisting of a couple of guys on the back side of middle age and my wife, our Pod consists of a wide variety of selections that range between The Mills Brothers, Glen Miller, The Beatles, Muddy Waters and everything in between. Well, everything except opera. I say not opera but have forgotten about one of my favorite selections to play on turn in morning, Wagners Ride of the Valkyries, so much for my everything but opera claim.

In my recently released book Startin the Fire I have listed a collection of tunes to be included on your I Pod playlist used on turn-in morning. I have the selections broken down between prep time, the four meats and clean up. I had a ball as I collected songs to complete the lists. I used forum posts on the topic, internet searches as well as good old fashioned research sources to come up with what I consider a pretty complete listing. I always have my eyes and ears open for songs that would fit the bill and could be added to my list, which, by the way, has grown even since the book was published. I have listed what I would consider a few of the “essential” compilations that must be included on everyone’s BBQ playlist.

Chicken Shake Boogie- A tune from Amos Milburn first recorded in 1948. I enjoy the original version but prefer a newer recording by Willie And The Poor Boys, a group formed in the early 80’s by Stones bassman Bill Wyman and included an assortment of members from time to time that included Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Jimmy Page and Ringo Starr.

Milk Cow Blues- This song has been covered by everyone from Elvis to the Kinks. My favorite cut is probably one of the earliest by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. If you can listen to this song without tapping your toe, I would have to question your reason to live.

I Love My Babys BBQ- Recorded by RJ’s Rhythm Rockers. A little hard to find but well worth the hunt, very snappy lyrics.

Barbeque- Robert Earl Keen. A slower selection, great for watching the smoke roll out the stack while sipping a cold drink.

Too Much Barbeque- Big Twist & the Mellow Fellows- How can you not have a tune by a band with this name on your I Pod?

Barbecue- Washboard Sam-This is an old recording that just cries out for someone to cover it again, Washboard asks, “baby, who’d you give my barbecue to?”

Mess around- Ray Charles- The first words of the song are, “talk about the pit, Barbeque”, how can you go wrong?

Good BBQ- The Riptones- “Shes a fine young thing that likes good BBQ”, nuff said.

As you can see from this small list, there is no shortage of songs about BBQ and related topics. Half the fun is hunting for them, the rest of the fun comes when you’re tapping your foot while loading your cooker or grill. Search for songs about smoke, fire, cooking, food, you can see what I am talking about. Have fun with it. I only ask that if you come up with any good ones, you drop me a line so I can add them to my playlist. I am always looking for new tunes to que by.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Holland Summer Fest 8/27-8/28 2010

Time sure flies when you’re having fun, and one thing is for sure, we like our fun.

The calendar says that it’s the end of August and time once again for one of our favorite contests of the season, the New Holland Summer Fest. Wow, where did summer go. It seems like just last week we headed south for the season opener in Salisbury MD, Pork in the Park. While this is not our last event for the year, it certainly is a reminder that the cool nights and shorter days of fall are just around the corner.

This year, as we have done in the past, the team traveled up to New Holland PA on Thursday evening slipped into our space and got set up before dark. We took along a few dozen live blue crabs, some fresh picked sweet corn and red ripe tomatoes. Talk about a meal, steamed crabs, buttered corn on the cob, sliced Maryland tomatoes and ice cold beer. It don’t git no better then this! It was a tremendous fest and a great way to mark the waning days of summer.

Being set up at a contest site when you get out of bed on Friday morning sure is the way to go. Much less rushing around, able to relax, enjoy the day, visit a bit, it just makes for a much more enjoyable contest experience. It is easy to see why several teams make it their SOP to arrive on site on Thursday evening. Not to mention the fact that early bird teams get an additional night to play before the real business of contest cooking begins on Friday night. And play we did, nuff said.

Last year the weather gods did very little for the fine folks that run the Summer Fest but they made up for it this year as beautiful skies and very comfortable temperatures were the rule of the day. It was great weather for sleeping outside; even cool enough to zip up the sleeping bag as there was a bit of chill in the night air. The best part though, was that it was dry.

The prep work and trimming went off without a hitch, things were going along very smooth, almost too smooth. I should have found it a little suspicious as the appointed hour for the cooks meeting crept closer and closer. Usually, I can persuade a team member to volunteer to attend to represent the team but this evening, no one stepped forward, in fact, they were as a group being fairly elusive. Being all caught up with my prep work due to our early arrival, I reluctantly trudged off to attend as our team representative without giving a second thought as to the source of their reluctance. I had a slight feeling that something was afoot, but could not isolate it, and quickly dismissed the thought as my pea sized brain switched into contest mode and was thinking about the times and tasks that laid ahead.

Twenty seven years as a law enforcement officer you think I would have learned to always follow my gut instinct, especially when you have a gut the size of mine, that’s a lot of instinct! As I ambled back from the meeting with my goodie bag in hand I rounded the corner at our site and was met with a very humorous sight. There stood each and every member of my team all sporting straw skyzoo’s with tropical headbands identical to the one that I have taken to wearing at contests. Too funny.

Regular readers will know that I began wearing my current contest headpiece a little over a year ago. The hat has become the target of some minor ridicule and scoffing from many members of the team. The result of which has prompted me to make the hat required headgear for each and every contest that we cook. I even had a cook on another team tell me at Bel Air as I was wearing old faithful, “Man, you need a new look”. I attribute the comment to too much alcohol consumption on his part, (it was rather late Friday night), and the fact that the lighting wasn’t what it should have been. Or it could have been too much alcohol consumption on my part, either way.

While at various contests my hat has been stolen, filled with things, and clamped to the top center strut of our canopy. It has been hidden from my view, screwed to the interior wall of the trailer, held for ransom, and a few other things too gruesome or obscene to mention considering this is a family show. I have a good idea that a person or persons on my team have been responsible. That’s right; I have determined it is an inside job, possibly a group effort. I didn’t do 27 years in law enforcement for nothing, just call me Inspector Clouseau.

Upon closer inspection, the headbands for the guys had been inscribed with the words, “we were those guys” a reference to the team name they plan to take when they secede from out current arrangement. The headband on Jo’s hat, yes, she had on too, said, “I am stuck with that guy.” Poor Jo, what a riot.

From the best information I could piece together during the subsequent investigation that ensued, the scheme was hatched by Bobby who then enlisted his wife into the caper for assistance. I am sure it was a group effort to some degree, but either way, it sure was a good one. I just wish there had been someone on site to snap a picture of my expression when I rounded that corner, I am sure it would have been a winner.

We cooked a pretty good contest, 72 teams, and we finished 7th overall. We received 3calls to the stage, 10th place ribs, (good job Bobby), 10th place chicken, and 6th place chefs choice, (which was cooked again this year by Jo, well done) We have been fairly solid all year either in or just outside the top 10 at every event, not bad for a couple of part timers, especially part timers sporting matching straw hats. One thing is for certain, we sure have a lot of fun!