Friday, October 3, 2008
A Southern Version of Heaven (or a Vegetarian's Nightmare)
The whole RV park has a haze hanging over it this weekend. But it's not fog and it's not smog. It's the multitude of meat smokers all fired up for the 12th Annual Pig Iron BBQ Challenge, held this year in Hoover, Alabama. To set it up and host thousands of attendees, they cordoned off 3/4 of the park, made us all move (I was sure it would be worth it) to one small section of the park, filling up all the rows at the entrance. By the time the Challenge opened at 5 pm on Friday evening, people were pulling into the Regions stadium parking lot and heading towards the smell of 'Que, as we like to call it around here.
Bar-B-Que, for those of you who don't know this, is a noun in the South (smoked meat, with a flavored sauce of your choice... a messy delicious treat) and a verb out West ("to cook out"). BBQ is a very serious thing in the South and as long as I've lived here I've never eaten as much that tasted as good as the restaurants make in Alabama. I will say this: Alabama can make some dang good BBQ. Holy cow. Or holy pig.
Our RV friends Peggy (a fellow writer) and Howell, who were volunteers, were kind enough to invite us to the event and we loved every minute of it. With themed booths, some decorated quite cleverly and named just as cleverly ("Butt Masters" was my personal fave, John enjoyed the Batman-themed "Got Ham City") the businesses that participated were cooking for a good cause. The Pig Iron BBQ Challenge is a contest to "find the best backyard BBQ in the state". It's held every year to raise funds for Children's Harbor, a charity that helps seriously ill children and their families through their children's camps and hospital-based family center and services. Looking at the attendance this time, it looks like they did well. Forty businesses participated. Thousands of people showed up. And why not? You pay $10 at the door and get to wander down rows of tents and booths and taste what they have served up for the judges and you, the salivating public. Some of the food was good, some was great and the general competition for the trophies was fierce.
I won't attempt to tell you how succulant some of the offerings were, I can only do an interpretive dance in honor of that but I will list for you right here what we consumed in a hour:
Corn on the cob
BBQ sandwich ( John)
Root beer float (John)
Fried catfish (Therra)
It was all free with admission. You could purchase beverages from the organizers, although I noticed some of the booths were giving away bottled water and one stylishly decorated 50's style "diner" was making the free floats. I know, I know... a dream come true! There was a blues band later in the evening and a fire truck for the kids to climb on, along with a Nascar racing car on display, face painting and clowns. After a while we sadly realized we had to stop eating for fear of developing a permanent waddle. At one tent, for a last hurrah, I got some ribs but John demurred. The man serving us stopped dead and looked at him, "You turning down my ribs?" he asked John with arched brows, forcing a slightly menacing manner. John said, "Oh, I am so full!" and patted his stomach. "You turning down my ribs?" the man repeated and I laughed out loud at John getting bullied into eating more food. John took a rib. The man looked happy. I was happy. The ribs were fantastic. Wow.
Oh, I forgot. You want to know who won? Sick children and their families. That's who wins with an event like this.
Good things happen when people care: