With BBQ season in full swing – and the biggest barbecue day of the year just ahead – it’s only fitting that we should have a little chat about food in general. And Bar-B-Q in specific. (I especially want to spare you transplanted Yankees of the inevitable bar-b-cue embarrassment you are likely to experience if you try act like you know anything at all about B-B-Que around Good Ole Boys who grew up on Bar-b-cue.)
Barbeque is, of course, the best food ever invented in the whole, entire history of mankind. (It’s also ranks high among “foods which can be spelled a lot of different ways”, which you may have noticed in the preceding paragraphs.)
So here’s what you need to know before diggin’ in on July 4th:
1. There are many different kinds of BBQ.
2. Grilling hamburgers or hotdogs ain’t one of ‘em.
That’s the common mistake made by Yankees. They confuse grilling with barbecuing. I don’t know where they got that notion. Probably from growing up with a lack of actual barbecue, so they’re just trying to make do.
Actual variety in BBQ comes from the various sauces: mustard-based, ketchup-based, vinegar-based, and a whole lot of other bases in exotic, faraway places like Texas.
How do I know these things? Because I am a food expert. I have eaten it almost my entire life, and I try to exercise my skills every day, usually several times a day to keep in practice. I learned about food at an early age, and have been carefully observing it ever since. Hence, I am an expert.
I remember food before there was fast food.
Back then, “eating out” was rarity… a special treat reserved for the occasional Sunday after church.
Soft drinks with meals were also a bit of a treat. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, RC Cola, Nehi, Seven Up came in bottles, not cans, in a cardboard six pack with a handle. But… they were not on the regular shopping list, because, once again, they were for special occasions. (For some reason, small cokes – half the size for the same price – were considered a special delicacy.)
WE opened those bottles, incidentally, with the bottle opener located at the other end of a “church key”. At our house, we could never find the bottle opener… which was okay, because the handles of our kitchen drawers doubled nicely as bottle openers.
With meals at my house, we drank a lot of (a) water, because it was free; (b) iced tea, because we were Southerners; and (c) milk, because it was delivered to our back door several mornings each week by the Golden Glow Dairy.
The meals themselves were a variety pack: some days were practically gourmet home-cooked feasts… and some days were the same cereal we had for breakfast for lunch and supper… if I could get away with it. (I was a kid! What could be better than Fruit Loops three times a day?!)
My other most memorable kid’s meal was the daily lunchtime “mannaze sammich”. I was in high school before I discovered that the Miracle Whip which comprised the entire inside of my sandwich was not mayonnaise at all, but salad dressing.
As I got older -- maybe eight or nine -- the mayo was replace with a Vienna sausage and mustard. Now THAT was good eating!
Here’s some other foods which were mealtime favorites at the Shealy household, circa 1962:
Spam. We liked it. We made sandwiches out of it, or we fried it and ate it like steak!
Hot Dogs. We simply wrapped a slice of white bread around it like a bun, because actual buns were unheard of, except at restaurants.
Collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens. There was a special way we ate them – with ketchup on top – which, to this day, I can’t find anyone else who has ever heard of this gourmet offering.
Salmon. Once upon a time, canned pink salmon was apparently very, very cheap, because we ate it a LOT. There was salmon gravy, salmon stew, salmon and eggs, and salmon patties (which were called croquettes when you saw them on the menu in restaurants.)
Gravy. On everything, the way it was intended. Gravy on grits. Gravy on potatoes. Gravy on rice. Gravy on biscuits. (If for some reason gravy was unavailable, then a big slab of butter was a decent substitute on any of the forgoing dishes… although it wasn’t really butter at our house… it was margarine, but we didn’t know the difference.)
And, of course, being from the South, there were certain automatic items of cuisine at our house: boil’t peanuts, mater sammiches, and wallermelon slices.
I could go on and on.
I could also make a rather lengthy list of foods I had hardly heard of, let alone tasted, until high school or college: pizza; burrito or any other Mexican food; Chinese food, such as Wong Tong Ching Chang Wow; any seafood other than fish. Shrimp, scallops, lobster and such didn’t even exist in my world.
But they do now…. Because I am a food expert. I try to eat every day.
And on July 4th, the food I plan to be eating is BBQ!
Along with an RC Cola, if I can find one.