Barbecue and baseball

Farm Forum

Limestone outcroppings line the superhighways that thread their way into Kansas City. The rock layers are an echo of the Kansas City food scene, which is made up of innumerable strata of barbecued meat.

Our youngest son and his wife live in Kansas City. My wife and I recently motored to the City of Fountains to confabulate (visit the kids) and masticate (eat as much barbecue as humanly possible.)

There are more barbecue joints in Kansas City than you can shake a stick at (and if you’re shaking sticks at barbecue joints, you’re doing something wrong.) Some of these eateries were churned out by colossal franchise machines and are just another link in a global chain. Our goal was to have a barbecue experience that was unique and authentic, so our son and his wife took us to B.B.’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q.

As we pulled into B.B.’s parking lot, I immediately sensed that this was exactly what we had in mind. The roadhouse’s brick facade radiated a timeworn vibe; the tang of smoldering hickory mingled with the aroma of creosote from the utility poles in a nearby layout yard.

It only got better when we stepped inside. Almost every square inch of the walls in B.B’s is plastered with posters for musical acts – mostly jazz and blues groups – that have played at B.B.’s over the decades. A haze of bluish wood smoke filled the air.

Things only got better when our food arrived. I ordered the pork ribs, which were so big they must have come from Hogzilla. They were intensely smoky and cooked to perfection.

Things only got better after we ate. Mama Ray and her three-piece jazz band, regular performers at B.B.’s, began to serenade diners with her jazzy-bluesy musical stylings. Mama Ray is definitely a seasoned veteran, but her voice remains as smooth as honey barbecue sauce.

Our experience at B.B.’s was unique and authentic and thoroughly delicious.

Next on the agenda was attending a Royals baseball game. My wife and I aren’t exactly sports fanatics and were thus ignorant of certain customs. Chief among these is that all attendees at professional sporting events must wear home team togs. This meant shopping, so naturally my wife was all for it.

Properly attired, we drove to Kauffman Stadium, a structure that’s larger than most small towns in South Dakota. Even though we arrived two hours before game time, lines of eager baseball fans stretched to the far horizon.

As we walked toward the stadium’s gleaming glass and stainless steel edifice, I thought, “With these lines, we’ll be lucky if we get in before the sun burns itself out!” But to my surprise, we were directed to an area where there was virtually no line. We swiftly passed through security and soon found ourselves in the area reserved for high rollers.

Due to a cosmically wondrous twist of fate, we got seats that were directly behind home plate. I have learned not to question such strokes of outrageously good fortune and to simply relax and enjoy them.

We arrived well before the first pitch would be thrown. A helpful stadium employee informed us that we could enjoy the buffet in the posh high roller dining room.

Even though we weren’t all that hungry, we hit the buffet like charging water buffalo. The grub was so delectable, it nearly caused me to have an out-of-body experience.

Tummies filled past capacity, we took our seats. As the game began I realized that the only way we could have gotten a better view would be if we had been home plate umpires.

We were close enough to hear the batters pop their bubblegum. When Pérez smacked a towering homer, we could feel the crack of the bat deep in our bones.

My wife soon lapsed into the Baseball Mom mode she used when our boys played ball. She would yell, “C’mon Eric!” or “Hit one, Mike!”, totally ignoring the custom of using only the batter’s last name. Thanks to our close proximity, some of the players actually heard her. A couple of them grinned appreciatively at my wife when they recognized the sound of a Baseball Mom’s voice.

It was an ideal evening for baseball, with balmy temperatures and just the whisper of a breeze. I soaked in the sight of the stadium and the crowd and the picture-perfect ball field and the professional-grade athletes and thought, “This is too bad. We’ll never be able to attend another baseball game because this will be impossible to match!”

Our visit to Kansas City may have expanded our waistlines. But it also expanded our appreciation for all the layers of culture available in the Paris of the Plains.

If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: