It’s hard to explain cook offs to people outside of the circuit. Best put; we spend an exuberant amount of money to have a weekend with little or no sleep, in that sultry southern sunshine, slaving over a hot pit…all for the chance to win a trophy and prize money that usually pales in comparison to the amount of money that goes into this hobby. Yes, we pay to have that much fun.
But there’s something intoxicating about traveling the nation, pulling in to that cloud of smoke, admiring all of the shiny pits, and custom trailers. There’s something oddly calming about evenings before the cook, something addictive about hearing your name called; something humbling about that 15 second walk to the stage among your peers. And then there’s weeks that leave you empty-handed and grasping to get back on top of your game.
The truth of the matter is Jay and I breathe a deep sigh of relief when we roll into a cook off. Because while we don’t get to do it as often as we’d like, these people get it. They get why we do it. They get why we are always entertaining people. They get why we love to cook. All ages, all walks of life, all ethnicities; we are cut from the same cloth. For the weekend, no one cares what kind of truck you drive or how big your house or your paycheck is, or who you parents are or what kind of grades your kids make, or what you do for a living. BBQ people just feel like our people.
I’ve said it a million times before, and I’ll say it again….BBQ people are the best people in the world to spend a weekend with. And here’s why:
1. Food is our love language. Let’s face it, good food brings people together. We don’t cook for our health (which is obvious by most of our waistlines!). We cook because good food lures in people of all kinds. It’s a common denominator in an ever-evolving, ever-dividing culture. So naturally, BBQers love people. We love to sit around and shoot the bull with fellow cookers, with spectators, with people from all over the country. BBQers never meet a stranger. At home or on the field, we love entertaining old friends and meeting new ones.
2. BBQ people are generous. Whether it be a forgotten tool, a few sticks of wood, the right camper plug, guidance backing into a spot or just an extra hand…you never have to look far for help.
3. BBQers are like McGyver behind a pit. Maybe it’s just us and the extra chaos we bring, but everything that can go wrong, will go wrong on a BBQ weekend. Being a good Pitmaster isn’t as simple as knowing temps and cook times…it’s about pulling off a flawless turn in box that wows judges with limited resources when absolutely everything goes wrong and the clock is ticking quickly.
4. BBQers compete fiercely but are always genuinely happy to see their friends win. We freaking love to win. I mean, love. to. win. We high five, we gloat a little, and we live on that high until the next competition when we know there’s a solid possibility we’ll be knocked down a peg….or 3.
This weekend, we were particularly happy to score higher than Jacks Old South.
Because let’s face it…beating Myron Mixon at a whole hog cook in Georgia is like beating Chuck Norris at a Tae-Kwondo match in Texas.
But the reason we’re so stoked isn’t because we wish any ill on his team. Quite the contrary, we respect the hell out of ’em! They’re phenomenal cookers and they’ve really brought BBQ competitions into the limelight. So while it feels like a milestone to our little team, it’s all from a standpoint of admiration.
5. BBQ people feed eachother spectacularly. We all know everyone shows up to cook BBQ, but all the random little odds and ends, in-between meals and leftover desserts that get passed around…mmmm, to die for. Steak, boudin balls, fajitas, burgers…if a BBQer hands you a snack, just relish the moment. Odds are it will be amazing.
6. BBQers are lifelong friends. There’s something about the wee hours of the night that bring people closer together. I mean, you see people’s true colors (and pajamas) long about 2am. Friends that we met at out very first cook off in Montgomery, Texas are still our friends today. We still root for them and they root for us. It’s a comradary that lingers.
7. BBQ people are trustworthy. You can trust them to keep an eye on your trailer or to watch your pit in a pinch. Now, if you do something goofy after a shot or two of fireball (like the guy that exited the portapotty this weekend sans pants) you can also trust they’re probably going to tell that story…more than once and to different crowds. Because everybody loves a good laugh and a funny story!
8. BBQ people raise BBQ kids…that turn into BBQ people. We deem cook off weekends technology free for our kids. We bring balls, bubbles, crayons, and, most of the time, a plastic pool. We may look like a redneck special pulling in, but our kids have an excellent time. They carry the responsibility of being polite in a grown up arena and helping as part of our team, but play hard and meet tons of new friends. They learn to win politely and lose graciously. They learn how to function as a team and the payoff that comes with hard work. Hopefully they turn into equally awesome adults.
9. BBQers work hard and play hard. Cooking itself is not an easy task. But beyond that, most cookers have a regular job all week, cater on the side, and compete on the weekends. It’s lots of work, but all worth it for the chance to play.
10. BBQers are gypsy souls. While every team has a home base that largely influences their cook, cookers pack up and move like the wind. Jay always jokes, “have pit, will travel.” Every weekend in a different city or state, at a different festival or for a different charity. When we’re cooking as often as we like, it seems like we’re packed as much as we’re not. And we love it that way.
So hug your BBQ friends today! They’re just good folks to know, to have a beer with, and definitely to eat with. We count ourselves so blessed!