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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So carefully chosen, painstakingly rubbed with a blend of salt, sugar and spice so secret court action has been commenced to keep it that way, briskets will be started late Saturday night and cooked anywhere from 10 to 16 hours at a temperature between 200° and 225°F. Since most competitors will follow Bob’s admonition about cooking more than one, your chance of tasting brisket is pretty high.

Not too long after, pork butts will start to cook. For reasons known only to antiquity and a butcher in Boston, the top part of a pig’s shoulder is referred to as a butt. None of the explanations I’ve ever heard for why this is so are appropriate for a family newsmagazine. Accept it and move on.

Butts are generally in the 8-10 pound neighbourhood, are comprised of upwards of half a dozen muscles, a fair amount of connective tissue, one of the most convoluted bones in a pig’s body and enough fat to be self-basting. Like most meat on a swine, butt cooked well is delicious. Butt well barbequed is sublime. Butt well barbequed and caressingly pulled – deconstructed fibre by fibre – and deftly sauced is delicious enough to tempt an orthodox rabbi.

Is This the Day the Teddy Bears Have Their Picnic?

Both the big cuts will be cooking pretty much all night Saturday. The aroma of several hundred pounds of cow and swine being slow smoked over charcoal fires stoked with aromatic woods will be enough to drive the folks staying at nearby Legends crazy.

Imagine what it’ll do to the bears.

"I’d rather parachute into Afghanistan than have to deal with bear mitigation during this thing," said Arthur DeJong, Whistler-Blackcomb’s mountain-environment-bear liaison manager. The short strokes are being worked out as I write, but expect some or all of the following: temporary fences, powerful lights, perimeter personnel, bear bangers, sacrificial lambs. I have a very distinct picture in my mind of the bears massing outside the fence just before false dawn. "They can’t get all of us," Yogi explains. "And if we pull this off, we eat like kings."

Assuming the bears haven’t taken over the pits by morning, ribs will go on about the time most of us are finishing our second cup of coffee. Ribs – pork, of course – are what most of us think of when we think about barbeque at all. Ribs are fussy food, fussy to eat, fussy to cook. They are also the food most often violated by faux barbeque restaurants with a penchant for large pots of boiling water. A pox on their houses.

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