Sunday, April 12, 2009

My BBQ Obsession

I've been a barbecue fanatic since college, when my roommate Adam brought home some of his father's ribs from Cleveland, TN. Danny Marr's ribs were legendary among our group of friends, and I quickly bought my first smoker to start experimenting. Soon after we went to the World Barbecue Championship in Memphis, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of barbecue.

Imagine the smell of your neighbor's charcoal grill. When the wind is right, the scent travels halfway down the block. Like Pavlov's dog, your mouth starts to water and no matter how long it’s been since you last ate, you're instantly hungry. Now imagine hundreds of smokers lined up on the Mississippi River, all of them full of ribs, pork shoulder and chicken. Wipe the drool.

Before the health department cracked down on samples, you could walk with beer in hand through row after row of bbq teams and meet friendly, well marbled folks eager to let you try their best barbecue. I imagine a similar setup behind St. Peter’s pearly gates.

After Memphis, I did a lot of small road trips in search of legendary barbecue spots. Trips to Alabama (Dreamland, Big Bob Gibson's, Golden Rule), Kentucky (Moonlight BBQ), Tennessee (Rendezvous, Interstate, Carl's Perfect Pig, Jack Daniel's BBQ Competition), North Carolina (B’s, Lexington #1, Bill Ellis). Mississippi (Leatha's Bar-B-Que Inn), Texas (Salt Lick) and Kansas City (Bryant's, Gates, LC's, Oklahoma Joe's, Fiorella's Jack Stack, Guy and Mae's). Each time I would do a day trip or a weekend jaunt, I kept thinking how great it would be to do a barbecue tour across the country. To see the different regional styles and savor the local flavor of each town and city.

Some people dream of doing a baseball stadium tour. Others want to climb the highest peaks in each continent. Me, I wanted to make a pilgrimage to my own personal mecca...the hallowed halls of the legendary barbecue spots.

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