August 02, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Artful carnage 

A guide to the low temperatures, high seasoning and holy smoke of this weekend's Canadian National Barbeque Championships

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David muddled through 2001, published the third and last of his successful barbeque cookbooks – In a Flash: Fast and Fabulous Barbecue Meals from the Fire Chef – and succumbed to his own illness last fall. Paul and Tony, with the help of Kathy Monk, Dusty’s pitmistress, stepped into the fray and organized this year’s event. David and Pat’s spirit, and a special memorial trophy honouring their long service, will infuse the gathering in its new home.

So let’s see, there will be cookin’ and tastin’ and judgin’, but what’s this event all about? The Canadian Nationals, dubbed Slo ’n’ Lo, will be about serious barbeque. For the uninitiated, what the competitors think of as barbeque and what most people think of as barbeque have little in common. That burger or steak or chop you throw on your propane appliance at home is not barbeque; it’s grilling. Nothing wrong with that and you can feel free to invite me over for a taste any time you care to, but it ain’t barbeque.

Barbeque – whether you spell it with a "c", a "q" or simply BBQ – is about unfriendly cuts of meat, low temperatures, high seasoning, lots of smoke, love and tall tales. In competition, it’s also about presentation and eye appeal. You can spend all night and half a day cooking with care but one slip with a dull knife and you might as well toss it all in the nearest garbage can... or give it to me.

Competitors will go head to head in four categories. Brisket, butt, ribs and chicken. Final registration and meat inspection – don’t even go there – is 4 p.m. Saturday and you can expect the first briskets and butts to hit the fire sometime around 9 p.m. Judging will begin around 11 a.m. Sunday and, most important, PUBLIC TASTING will commence around the same time. Teams at this level of competition cook way more meat than they need to submit, hoping one cut will turn out superior to the others. What the judges don’t get, we do. Do not, under any circumstances, come late and expect there will be anything more substantial than a lingering smell in the air for you to consume. What gets put out for public consumption disappears faster than political promises. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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