Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wholy Small World, Batman!

Over 10 years ago, I found a BBQ listserv kind of thing with discussion threads, people asking questions and people arguing over the answers. True BBQ for the true BBQ fan. The list was run buy a guy named Dave who eventually became the first person that went from anonymous online voice to person I met. We had a very nice dinner at a BBQ joint named Wilbur's in North Carolina. Anyhow, Dave had a website and links to things on pit construction, technique, a debated BBQ Faq plus whatever he thought was interesting. Now I followed this email group, mostly in a non-participating role refered to as "lurk mode" for awhile. After most of the topics had been repeated multiple times, the list slowed down. Then the list changed names and locations and began to refer to itself as The Society for the Preservation of Traditional Southern Barbecue. I followed that for awhile and then stopped after I had some computer issues. There are names from the list I remember fondly. There was a really nice guy in Texas who went by "Belly." While following the list, Belly's wife Susie passed away I remeber being surprised at how sad I felt. I had never met Belly or his wife. But the list was the kind of place where the active participants seemed like friends. I guess that is the beauty of cyber-space. You have friends you never met.

I'm not sure what became of the list. Looking at old web pages, it might still be going. The main thing I took away from it was to try cooking low and slow directly over the coals. I tried it. I loved it. Life has never been the same since.

There were several memebers that were very active. There was a guy who's tag was "Bob in Ga." Bob in Ga. was (and probably still is) very passionate about food and BBQ. He had smokers, pits, pizza ovens and his own farm where he raised all of his meat. Truth be told, "Jon in Albany" is a personalized derivative of Bob in Ga. I think there was a part of me that wanted to be like Bob in Ga. when I grew up. There might still be - I recently looked at a house with enough land for pits and livestock.

Bob in Ga. would insist that BBQ was produced by cooking a whole hog directly over coals created by burning wood(no charcoal-not even lump), seasoned vinegar is the only acceptable sauce, and a BBQ contest is pure evil. He hated contests. Many of Bob in Ga.'s clashes were with people living in suburbia with equipment ranging from a small Weber smoker to a huge propane tank mounted to a trailer travelling from town to town cooking ribs and pork butts. They did not appreciate being told again and again that what they did was not "real." One of the guys that vocally defended his food to Bob in Ga. was a guy named Gary in Chicago.

To prove his point, Bob in Ga. invited any list memeber that was interested in discovering "real BBQ" to a BBQ fest at his farm in Georgia. There, one would be able to slaughter a hog, scald it, prep it and cook in low and slow directly over live hardwood coals. I would have loved to have gone. But, money and vacation time were an issue back then and I never went. I think the event happened more than once. Based on the stories on the list, it was a helluva good time.

Where the hell am I going with this? Stick with me, I think I might be getting there.

Fast forward to 2008. I started reading all the Ruhlman books and began making my own sausage and bacon. One night, on a whim, I googled Ruhlman to see if he had a website. Turns out he had a blog. I had never really paid much attention to blogs. I really liked his blog so I checked out the blogs he had listed on the side. Turns out I liked some of those. The cycle continued and now I follow about a dozen blogs and and I keep looking for others. Anyhow, Ruhman once posted a link to a head cheese making video at Skyful of Bacon. The video was awesome, so I started following the blog and movies both created by Michael Gebert. Michael often refers to an LTH forum whick looks like a hybrid of a blog and the old BBQ email listserv. On the LTH forum there is a lengthy discussion of curing bacon. Since I respect Gebert's opinion and it appears often in the posts, I figured I'd give it a read. In the discussion there are references to Bob in Ga. raised pork and posts by a Gary going by "G Wiv" that is from Chicago. Could that be the Gary? I'm guessing it is since halfway down the second page of post, there is a phot of Gary puting a hog in hot water at Bob in Ga.'s farm. Wholy small world, Batman!

So, I googled Bob in Ga. Turns out he has a website too. Read the "Our BBQ Dream" and "The Wrong Way" for some insight to Bob in Ga.'s passion. It comes through, but came through louder in the old emails.

Sometimes the internet is a small place.

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