I come from a “barbecue town.” Correction, I come from, arguably, The Barbecue Capital of the Free World. This is, of course, Kansas City. Now, all of you in Memphis can protest along with the Brisket Brigade from Texas. But, there it is. I’ve thrown down the grill mitt.
Because of my location, I can stand on just about any corner of my hometown, inhale deeply, and smell wood smoke and meat. If you are of the meat-eating persuasion, and know your ‘cue, then you know the power of this smell is enough to make you forget all about green concerns and dive onto a platter of ribs like a starving dog on a meaty bone.
Problem is, few of these establishments are using sustainable, ethically-raised meats, and well, wood smoke is not the most environmentally-friendly cooking method. I’ve had to give up the very culinary tradition my hometown is world famous for. It’s tough being an ethical eater sometimes.
How does an eco-conscious omnivore with a weak spot for ribs get around this?
Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em
You could get yourself a “subscription” to Belly-Up Barbecue’s Barbecue of the Month Club that uses local, sustainable meats. No doubt the finest — and least guilt-inducing — I have ever had and I have eaten my share. But the most accessible path for us occasional carnivores is going to require a do-it-yourself approach.
That’s where Ardie A. Davis and Chef Paul Kirk’s new book America’s Best BBQ might come in handy. The authors have a combined total of over one hundred years of barbecue eating and research. So, get a huge cloth napkin, some grassfed meat from a local farmer, a bit of hickory and read up. Your days of longing for authentic ‘cue joint fare are over.
The book is not a “green” cookbook or meant to be. It is a great documentation of authentic barbecue recipes and traditions that those of us of the “green” mindset can use as a guide to get authentic flavor with our own greener approach, including sourcing local ingredients. I often find the end result is a lot better if I translate the original culinary traditions myself into a more sustainable approach.
America’s Best BBQ dishes out recipes for over 100 favorite BBQ joint recipes from all across the nation. That means Memphis pulled pork, Texas brisket, and Kansas City ribs — with all the sauces, sides and sidebars to guide you to making your own barbecue fare.
If you are still feeling some green guilt, let’s pause a moment and contemplate the origins of this cooking tradition. Barbecue is low and slow, a perfect method for cooking natural and grassfed meats — the only kind available when that first smoking session got lit. While my concerns over factory-farmed meats keep me salivating outside a barbecue joint, I like that the book can help me duplicate that flavor with sustainable meats I have bought direct from local farmers.
Other tips for keeping things greener are to make your barbecue indulgence less frequent, eat less meat on a daily basis, and to use the right grill for the right purpose. Gas grills have less of an environmental impact and work just great for grilling. The book does include tips on how to use a gas grill for smoking. Use the wood and your smoker only for that occasional low and slow goodness.
Barbecue is also food of the people, so the book includes some ways to cook every part of the animal snout to tail, and even what’s under the tail — RMOs that is. Rocky Mountain Oysters. No waste.
For those who eschew ranching’s carbon footprint altogether and prefer to go the hunter-gatherer approach, you can even find recipes in the book for Smoked Catfish, Barbecued Raccoon and Grilled Rattlesnake. There’s even some Fried Okra for the vegetarian in your life. This may sound like treason to any true ‘cue afficionado, but any of the sauces and spice rubs would go well as a guide to create your own Smoked Tofu, if you want to give the translation a try.
If you find yourself still missing the whole unique barbecue shack ambiance, then the book comes chock full of the flavor of these roadside legends right down to the typography, illustration and photos, plus stories and advice from America’s most legendary pitmasters. You will only need to add some blues music and a cold, organic beer.