Saturday, May 28, 2011


Southerners love to barbecue.

I know quite a few men--some related to me, in fact, who are  crazy serious about it.

They--and thousands like them-- have turned this traditional cooking technique into part art form, part science project, and almost a professional sporting event.

But I still wasn't quite prepared for the Memphis in May World Barbecue Cooking contest.

Nearly 250 highly-competitive teams were spread out around Fairgrounds stadium. The regular location, abutting the Mississippi River at Tom Lee Park, was pretty flooded out by rising water.

But a little deluge wasn't going to stop this contest.

It was appropriately re-named, "Come Hell or High water"--with t-shirts to that effect.

I arrived on a blustery day, and I quickly learned that weather was just one of the factors these top barbecuers consider. Wind, you see, was one of the top worries, and the festival flags were snapping in the strong breeze. If you opened your cooker--doing its slow cook magic at 250 degrees--and the wind got in...well, that was it: your cooking temps could plummet. It's a danger that could wreak havoc on cook times--and even make your final BBQ positively inedible.

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