BLUE RIDGE BBQ FESTIVAL
This is big time barbecuing. The winners earn the right to participate in the national barbecue contest in Kansas City - the World Series of barbecue. I'm there with Jack McDavid, of TV Food Network's Grillin' and Chillin' and Philadelphia's Jack's Firehouse and the Down Home Diner. My job is to keep out of Jack's way and to fetch the occasional root beer float.
There is a lot of "hurry up and wait" to big time barbecuing. The whole hog takes close to a day to cook - doesn't really need all that much attention, but hard core bbq'ers stay up all night to keep an eye on things. And to drink some beer. And to trade tales of great barbecue contests and barbecuers of days gone by. And to drink some more beer.
It's actually a series of contest over a couple of days. The first is "anything but" meaning anything but pork. Jack did a BBQ clam bake - lobster, clams, sausage and white fish.
Next came the Queen of the Hogs contest. Those who have barbecued a whole hog gussy it up all pretty like and then, when the judges come by, spin a yarn about the hog. Jack and his son Jason told the tallest tale, ending with the hog's cell phone ringing.
Then comes the judgin' and the eatin'. First portions of the whole hog are presented - the cheek, tenderloin, shoulder, ham and ribs. This is probably the toughest, cooking a whole hog so each part is perfect.
In another smoker, at the same time that the whole hog has been cooking, Jack has been barbecuing separate body parts - the shoulder and ribs, along with whole chicken and a beef brisket.
Each of these are individually garnished and presented to the judges at half hour intervals. What doesn't go to the judges we get to eat. What we don't eat goes to the state troopers who are working the festival.