|Odd Devices: The Art of Deception|
|Monday, 05 October 2009 21:23|
As soon as the Ice Chests were unloaded, and chairs were set up, the contest inspector came to inspect our competition meat. The first ice chest that he opened was the one containing all of the crab legs, shrimp, and sausage for the Friday night boil. The surprised inspector looked at us and said, "is this your competition meat?" Chip replied with a serious look on his face, "Well Yeah! This is the West County Seafood Cookoff ain't it." Seeing the flaberghasted look on the inspector's face, Chip continued, grinnin' like a donkey eatin' cactus, "Naw, that is the stuff to eat tonight, which you are more than welcome to come by and have some." Pointing to the other large ice chest, "There is the chest you are looking for." After a successful inspection, Mike said those famous words that are precious to all who partake in barbeque lore . . . "Let's rub our meat."
This being Chip's first real barbeque competition, he was unwary of all of the eyes on their competition spot. One would guess, when you pull up with a smoker the size of the Saturn V rocket, people begin to take notice. We got the meat out and washed it down, prepared it for rub, then all of a sudden, Mike kept worrying about where I was standing. "Stand over there," said Mike motioning to the side of the table, so thinking he was in his light, Chip moved over as directed; "now scoot over this way a little," asked Mike, with Chip complying. Finally Chip asked "why am I movin' all over the place?" Mike said "look at the eyes on us, see the two over your left shoulder, they were about to stumble into the next team's space lookin' at what we are doin' . . . And the guys behind us, they would keep moving to get you out of their line of site, and look like nobody's business."
Chip looked around, and sure enough, there were more eyes on them, than a tree full of buzzards, watching a roadkill's final twitches. "I'll be damned," said Chip, then asked the toddler question . . . "Why?" Mike replied that it was probably because we brought such a grande smoker, and folks here had probably seen each other in tournaments before, and by the nature of barbeque lore, teams are just looking to see what other folk do, just to confirm what they do in their own secretive preparation. Just on appearance, we were kindof like a wildcard team . . . by the looks of the smoker, we were serious, but what had we won . . . that was the question on everyone's mind.
Aparently, Chip was a real wildcard to barbeque competition, as he prepared for the Friday evening boil (apparently they don't do boils at barbeque competitions). Folks eyed him down as he separated the king crab legs into single-joint chunks, and snow crab legs into single-leg chunks, and set the Prasek's Hillje, TX (hand imported by Chip's wife Beth) Smoked Jalapeno Sausage out to thaw. Once Chip began the boil water, folks downwind came pokin' around the corner . . . "what'cha cookin'?" they asked, as Chip dumped the potatoes, corn and a couple more bags of spicy crab boil, into the steaming pot that started with liquid crab boil and a cup of Tony Zatcheries(tm) Creole seasoning; hell, jus' the water could be used as a cajun poor-man's broth . . . "We're havin a boil tonight," replied Chip; "you're more than welcome to come." Being a tugboat captain from the Texas\Louisiana coast, Chip was astonished at the dumbfounded look on their neighbor's face, that we would waste our time doing such a thing.
Boil he did . . . Chip dumped out 2 pots of the best boiled King Crab, Snow Crab, and Shrimp, along with the 6 links of sliced Jalapeno Sausage, corn, potatoes, and onions, that he had ever cooked. This was the first ever boil that Chip had produced that did not have crawfish in it, but he attributed this lack to geographical limitation (ie. St. Louis doesn't have fresh enough to warrant a boil). Chip's wife Beth, brought some Jalapeno cornbread, which went right nice with the boil. Three of the KCBS onsite ofiicials came by, and though one proclaimed it was too spicy (certainly a taste for it is needed), the other two grazed happily stating that it could be turned in as the "other" category, anytime a contest would allow gas to cook something. There was enough left over that, once peeled, Chip had enough to Gumbo-up (tugboat term . . . hell, you can gumbo up leftover barbeque chicken) the next Monday.
After the "Feast of Friday," during the evening sometime, Mike decided it was time to fire-up the "Big Dawg" . . . The smoker looked like a hungry animal as chunk after chunk of Hickory was added to the firebox to season the racks; in about an hour, the world renowned 225-degrees was reached. The "Big Dawg" belched smoke into the air, no less than a 15-Gigawatt Power station smoke stack, and smell good, MMmmmmm. As the six briskets, and six pork butts went onto the smoker, you could hear the slight sizzle that said, the racks are ready. Mike and Chip flipped a coin, to determine who was first shift, and who was second shift (we sent our wives, and Aunt Karen to a hotel, so they could be comfy). Chip won the toss, and got first shift . . . midnight until 3 AM. Mike would handle 3 AM until 6 AM, then both would be up until turn-in.
As Mike crawled into the cot in the back corner of the 20 X 20 canopy covered area, with the heater canked up (the temp had dipped down to 32 -degrees), Chip settled into a chair to monitor the temp guages on the "Big Dawg." If the temp went above 225-degrees, Chip would have to "shut-down" the vent on the firebox, and "choke-down" the stacks; if the temp got too low, add some hickory, and open the firebox vent and stacks. Every 45 minues I had to [Mike Edited: Barbeque Secret] and that was to continue until Mike woke up. So monitor, Chip did . . . that was when he noticed people watching. They watched as he thumped the thermometers, watched as he gently kicked the firbox vents closed, watched as he adjusted stack vents to control smoke; Chip was bound and determined to look professional. One of the folk watching was actualy Mike, as he had never cooked with Chip before, and could only quasi-slumber for his time off.
At this point of the story, we need to go into barbeque engineering for the sake of describing the "Big Dawg." There is such a thing called a "keep rod," which with the "Big Dawg" being 8-foot X 2 racks of cooking space, means that there are two lift doors, whereby the 8-foot long "keep rod" keeps the doors closed while the "Big Dawg" is being towed. The "keep rod" fits into padeyes that cover the lift doors while towing, but while using the smoker, the builder had foresight enough to put the same padeyes on the back of the smoker, whereby the rod would not get stepped on and get bent. This is where Chip got ammusement, as it was fitted with the same high-heat handle as the doors for the smoking chamber.
You know, in the wee-hours of the morning, folk get to thinkin' . . . This "keep rod" looks actually like a cooking control when placed in its non-useful position of "holding while the smoker is actualy used." Chip looked around and once again saw eyes resting upon their smoker. There was much more kick in Chip's step, as he thumped the thermometer and adjusted vents, and stacks, and sat back by the firebox (not to guage the heat, but because it dipprd into the high 20's). Chip once again, sitting by the firebox, looks at the handle of the "keep rod" and decides that it looks like a handle for cooking and such.
As Chip would check the temperature of the smoker, whether hot or not, he would kick the firebox vent, and adjust the smoke vent. He finally decided that the "keep rod" would generate attention if he started using it as a part of his cooking process; though utterly useless to the cooking process, Chip began cranking the "keep rod" and yanking, and pulling it every time he adjusted vents. Knowing the eyes upon him, Chip was not surprised that one of the competitors was watching like a hawk, and finally curiosity would kill the cat . . .
Finally the cat was curious enough to come and question . . . "I understand the vent on your firebox," stated the competitor, "but, what is that handle you keep cranking and twisting," (meaing the 'keep rod') . . . "Well this awesome smoker has a wood pellet injection device attached to it, whereby, each twist of the handle dispenses a measured amount of wood pellets into the cooking chamber, then when I pull the rod, it drags the wood pellets back to the edge of the firebox, adding for a much richer smoke than adding the pellets right to the coals." Reading the face of the poor soul on the first watch, he bought the story hook-line-and-sinker; Chip knew that the new information would be passed to the folk coming on watch, so he decided to pass it along to Mike when he finally awoke.
Never heard was such a boisterous laughter when Chip told Mike about the myth told to the neighbor . . . He said that he would keep the tail going . . . I guess that trickery is a part of barbeque contests as well; Chip had finally arrived.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 08 October 2009 19:36|