Jerry Nelson: Smoke shopping
It has been said that smoking is one of the toughest habits to give up.
I can personally attest to the veracity of this sentiment, although the type of smoking I enjoy doesn’t involve tobacco. My chosen form of smoking entails hardwood and flames and the occasional singed eyebrow.
Part of the unwritten Guy Code states that nothing is so good that it can’t be improved. For example, the Jersey beef that my wife and I raise is tender and delicious. But just imagine how much more delectable that brisket would be if it were lovingly bathed in the smoke of a slow cherrywood fire! The mere thought is enough to make me salivate at levels often associated with lawn sprinklers.
My wife and I recently journeyed to Kansas City to visit family. KC is a mecca for barbecue aficionados. Any city that has an organization called a Barbecue Society has a serious smoking issue.
By the way, if there’s a search for The Cutest Baby In The World, it can be called off. My wife and I have found The Cutest Baby In The World, who, by some great coincidence, happens to be our grandson. Don’t take my word for it. Random citizens, upon seeing our grandson in his stroller, will stop in their tracks and coo, “Oh, what a cute baby!” And what has this world come to if you can’t trust the judgment of strangers you happen to pass during a walk in the park?
While in KC, we decided to visit an establishment that specializes in all things barbecue. Failure to do so would be similar to journeying to a world-class steakhouse and deciding against going inside even though you can hear the sizzling beef and smell its mouthwatering aroma.
The barbecue depot we visited was called, fittingly, The Kansas City BBQ Store.
I knew we’d found the right place when I saw a sign in the window that read, “R Butts R Smokin’”. I had to read it twice before it dawned on me that the placard didn’t refer to the store’s employee’s physiques. It turned out to be an advertisement for a lineup of barbecue seasonings.
As we entered the store, we were confronted by a mindboggling array of barbecue stuff. There were racks and racks of sauces. Some of the sauce bottles bore such names as Hawg Wash (for cleansing pigs, I presume) and Ghost Pepper Sauce (which, I would guess, will come back to haunt you).
The sheer number of rubs that were on display was beyond comprehension. It was a good thing my wife was with me because I was tempted to exclaim to the proprietor, “I don’t know what all of this is, but I’ll take one of everything!”
Bags of lump hardwood lined one wall. I didn’t have time to examine them all but wouldn’t be surprised if they had 10,000-year-old hardwood that had been retrieved from the Siberian permafrost.
Did they have any smokers on hand, you might wonder? Ha! That’s like asking if a chicken has feathers.
They had big smokers, little smokers, smokers shaped like an egg and smokers that would do everything for you except purchase the meat.
One of the largest and most expensive smokers was the size of a walk-in closet. There was enough space in it to cook a quantity of food that could feed a small town with room leftover for a substantial amount of outerwear. This would give an entirely new dimension to the words “smoking jacket.”
But among all the computer-controlled, Bluetooth-connected smokers, the one that caught my eye was the most primitive model.
It had a rounded top and sported a set of steel wheels. There was a firebox at one end and a smokestack at the other. Its main source of appeal was that it resembled a steam locomotive. Every guy secretly wishes that he owned a steam locomotive.
I fantasized about what it would be like to have that smoker. Puffs of fragrant smoke would billow from its smokestack, and I would toot its steam whistle when the meat was ready.
But I knew that we couldn’t buy the thing. It would never fit in the trunk of our car and its steel wheels weren’t made for highway speeds.
My wife roused me from my reverie. “It’s time to go,” she said as she put an overflowing shopping bag in my arms.
I peered into the bag and almost wept for joy. I can’t wait to slap some KC Cowtown Steak Rub onto one of our Jersey briskets and sit out on the deck and enjoy a nice, slow smoke.
If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.