There’s Love… I Mean Smoke in the Air
Photos courtesy of Vic Clevenger
Wafting through the air this month is the sweet aroma of chocolate mingled with bouquets of flowers. Both of which will be purchased on the way home from work on the 14th with a “thinking of you” card because all the other “love” cards have already been secured by star-crossed lovers who began their relationship a month ago (so fellas, let this article be a reminder to get to the store now. You’ll save yourself some grief). We’ll gaze into our lover’s eyes and do our best to quote Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet as we say, “A rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” However, what we’re really thinking is, “Do I have enough maple and cherry wood for the cook this weekend?”
Much like the love we share with our significant other, this love affair with outdoor cooking isn’t much different. When I was courting the girl who was to become my wife, I would go to great lengths to make sure all was perfect for our dates. Where would you like to eat was rarely an unanswered question, mainly because I was poor and pizza is what we lived on. But on those special occasions the sky was the limit. A nice dinner at a fancy-ish place, a movie perhaps and maybe a stroll along the river in the moonlight. All of this was a well-planned spare no expense evening of romance and ensure successful wooing.
You remember how this went don’t ya? The planning, the reservations, the budget and the glow of the moon for just the right touch. Once everything was in place the perfect cook…I mean, evening was ready to commence and the night belonged to you. This kind of night set up a lot of remarkable memories. The night a diamond ring was placed on a left hand or the night you decided to announce to the world, your world, you were going to be a parent. This is what makes this time of year so special and why many look at the stars whispering, “There’s love in the air.”
This however, isn’t the only aroma wafting past the nostrils of the trained and untrained alike. For the trained, the seasoned, the pitmaster this airborne fragrance is a love of a different sort but just as powerful. The tangled smoke from a maple and pecan combination means someone someplace has fired up the smoker with great BBQ goodness on the horizon. Perhaps there will be well pulled pork butt coming your way for sliders or a couple slices of generously seasoned brisket to put on a buttermilk biscuit for breakfast. This love of some cherry smoke kissed ribs or chicken hugged with apple smoke captures the heart of an outdoor cook. Sure, our spouses know we love them, this is why we stop on our way home from work to get flowers or a card for Valentines, but BBQ, well this is a whole different level of affection. Much like a captain and his ship, the pitmaster doesn’t just enjoy cooking but needs to be with his or her cooker, yearns to cook on it.
Like any relationship it didn’t start out this way, it was just a casual acquaintance, chance meeting. Perhaps you were at a neighbor’s backyard party and your eyes lock onto this smoke bellowing grill. Sure, you’ve seen grills before, plenty of them, but this time it’s different. This time there’s a curiosity, an attraction and you just have to get closer. Then you’re hooked. Was it love at first sight or just the way it felt to grill something people enjoyed? Whatever it was, it was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to which through the ups and downs of both great food and burnt, you’ll be there for each other. You and BBQ, together forever.
Yes, there is love in the air and for many its smells a lot like BBQ.