Smoke Dreams Part 2
If you haven’t read my first Smoke Dreams post, this won’t make much sense. Real quick- or “quick and dirty” to get you up to speed. I have like five grills, almost, but no stick burners (translation – smoker that cooks only wood-fired barbecue). I finally got one this week, and I’m super stoked. I’ve spent a few days grinding, tuning, drilling, and getting her ready. I’ve named her Michelle in honor of my uber supportive “almost” wife and her amazing mother. I’m so happy with the first cook; it far exceeded my expectations.
November Saturdays in Louisiana are pretty close to perfect. It really doesn’t ever get cold here- maybe once or twice a year it’ll get below freezing- so we spend a lot of time outside. When I woke up around 5:45 to begin this cook, it was about 55 degrees outside – which is perfectly comfortable for a Connecticut born/Jersey raised guy, but not so much a South Florida girl (she was sleeping anyways). Today was going to be especially fun for me because I was going to do my first all-wood cook. Just a little bit of charcoal to start the fire, and afterward, nothing but wood. And smoke. And fire. And time. The rule of smoking meat is: It isn’t done until it’s done.
Chopping wood is an incredibly enjoyable exercise in the morning. It’s one of those things like cutting grass; it’s really easy to see the progress you make and feel good about what you’ve done. I broke a serious sweat even though it was in the fifties. I brought the notebook Cait gave me as inspiration and to jot down ideas as I went; she is the best.
It’s hard to do an all-wood cook for a number of reasons. First off, it requires constant attention. Gas and charcoal are super predictable, and that’s why people use them. It’s easy to produce a decent product using predictable means, but it’s extremely difficult to produce exceptional quality. Almost every restaurant you’ve been to for barbecue uses gas or electric fired smokers, and the taste just isn’t the same (I’d honestly say EVERY restaurant, but who am I to judge). More than just taste, I think it’s cheating because I know how it used to be done and how it’s supposed to be done.
I personally had the privilege of living in North Carolina during my teenage years and learned a lot about true wood-fired barbecue. It’s a painstakingly slow process that requires passion and patience to consistently deliver at a high level, and when you get the good stuff, there is unquestionably no going back. The more time I spend following this dream, the more I realize that I obsess over one of those qualities – passion, and I’m still working on the other…
My dearest friends Ada and her husband Edwin, gave me a book a few years back. It’s funny how the universe works, because as I was sitting outside this morning reading the book they gave me (for the second time) a particular couple of sentences made the hair on my arms stand up.
Then there are the cooks themselves, the heroes who drive these little dramas of transformation. Even as it vanishes from our daily lives, we’re drawn to the rhythms and textures of the work cooks do, which seems so much more direct and satisfying than the more abstract and formless tasks most of us perform in our jobs these days. Cooks get to put their hands on real stuff, not just keyboards and screens but fundamental things like plants and animals and fungi. They get to work with primal elements, too, fire and water, earth and air, using them–mastering them!–to perform their tasty alchemies.
– Michael Pollan, Cooked
The funny thing is, I absolutely adore working in the beauty industry. I most definitely love the company I work for. I have crazy love for the family that owns the business that I work for. I am blessed to go to work everyday knowing I can accomplish something that affects an enormous amount of people in so many ways. How I got so lucky I’ll never know – and after adding Caitlyn to my life, I know I’ve hit the jackpot.
Back to cooking…
We burned a clean fire all day and produced some outstanding product. I’m certain that we could stack up with some of the best, and I’m not joking. If you do it the right way, and you love doing it, you can’t fail. Going forward, the way we’ll do it every time is following our ancestors and how they created such beautiful results from such humble cuts of meat and vegetables. We’re realizing that this is where our niche is – honest food, honest process, and honest products.
We spent the afternoon searching Craigslist for bigger tanks and bigger steel to start building the future cooker(s) for whatever and wherever we end up doing it. The coming days / months / years will certainly be filled with welding, grinding, grease, smoke, and a bunch of other very dirty yet enjoyable stuff – at least for me…
If you’re hungry, send me a text and swing on by. We’ve got plenty to spare, and for now, it’s free…