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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Competition ribs are fussed over like a sick child. Their inside membrane is painstakingly stripped off lest the finished product bite back when the judges test for tenderness. They are rubbed and rubbed again. They are turned and mopped and spritzed with concoctions ranging from pure apple juice to elaborate blends of sweets and acids to impart flavour and produce a come hither glow of a licked-lip beauty contestant. The ribs cooked in competition are, without a doubt, better than any ribs you’ve ever had in your life. A commercial venture would go bankrupt lavishing the time and attention competitors lard on their ribs.

"Rib meat should pull cleanly off the bone," Bob Lyon explained a couple of years ago when he was trying to teach me to judge barbeque. "It shouldn’t fall off the bone and heaven forbid, it shouldn’t stick to it either." As a card-carrying judge, my own opinion is that ribs should make your mouth happy to be alive and your tummy wish there were twice as many as there ever are. None of us will ever live long enough to eat all the ribs we’d like to.

The final category is chicken. In some ways, it presents the most variables for competitors. They can send the judges perfect slices of breast meat, juicy thigh meat, or maybe some tarted up little drumstick joint of wings. Chicken doesn’t have the cachet of the other cuts and suffers from over-familiarity. I would be happy to spearhead a movement to replace it with venison, salmon or lamb. Chicken’s chicken. Cluck ol’ hen, cluck all day.

When the Veljacics held the championships, there was a chili cookoff as an adjunct to the real competition. This year, there will be an open burger competition held on Sunday. Open to anyone with a grill and spatula, the Bullseye Backyard BBQ Burger Contest’s title just about says it all. For a $20 entry fee, you too can vie for Whistler’s Best Burger.

The rules are simple. Bring your own grill and $20. Everything else, including the burger, is provided. The only stipulation is Bullseye sauce has to either be in or on your burger. Sounds like corporate sponsorship, eh?

But the prizes are substantial. While the pros are going for the glory, the burgermeisters are playing for real money. $500 for best burger, $200 for second best and a single brown bill for third.

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