As a rule, when you see a cloud of blue smoke hanging thickly over Kansas City it means that the tailgating faithful have gathered for a Chiefs home game. However since it's a beautiful Saturday in October, it can only mean one thing.You can smell the aroma before you even park your car. There's a whole lot of meat cooking low and slow.The American Royal Barbecue is the largest barbecue contest in the US. Over 500 teams compete in several categories. Friday night is the beginning of the cooking and the party. Because of Health Department regulations, teams cannot sell their offerings to the general public. Instead they hold "private parties" and give tickets to friends, family and sponsors. If you're a meatatarian, you learn very quickly to make friends with one of the bigger teams. And may I just say these people are very dedicated to their "sport"...and also very clever.You know it's a big contest when they keep their supplies in a semi and use a pallet truck to move them.That's because there's some huge grills out there that need charcoal.Don't forget the meat!
And where does all of this hard work end up?Why, in a styrofoam clamshell, of course - so that......the folks hidden behind the curtains can eat and judge your food. If you do well in all four categories of meat (Brisket, Pork Ribs, Pork and Chicken) you can be eligible for the Grand Champion Prize of a Trophy, a Kingfisher Kooker and $12,500 and an automatic invitation to the contest for the next five years. Of course that's only for the KC Masterpiece Invitational, to which only Grand Champions are invited. There's also an open contest with a lot more contestants. It all adds up to a whole lot of meat.
Not into ribs or brisket?These two Canadian women DROVE all the way from British Columbia just for this event. They had already eaten their way through their meat options and were having dessert - a little something called an Elephant Ear. And trust me, the picture does do the size of this thing justice. It's a huge piece of deep fat fried dough smothered with cherry topping. They let me have a nibble and it was quite tasty. I think I'd need more than one other person to help me eat it though. I tip my hat to these ladies; they are truly in the Padma Laksmi class of eaters.
Some of the best food I had for the day had nothing to do with barbecue at all, but was by one of the food demo chefs. Meet Virginia Willis.She is seen here demonstrating a very yummy black eyed pea salad. Virginia is based in Atlanta, and is officially the second person I know who actually keeps chickens within city limits. She is, however, the first I know to name her chickens after female country singers. You can guess who the deep breasted chicken is named for.
Now it's important to pay attention at these food demos because you never know when your attention to detail will pay off in, oh say... a free cookbook!Virginia kindly signs my prize. You can expect a Karmic Kitchen review of her cookbook "Bon Appetit, Y'all" in the coming weeks, but in the meantime visit her website for a selection of recipes from her cookbook. This woman makes a mean Steak Salad, y'all!
If you are serious about your barbecue skills or would just like watch masters at work then make plans to spend the first weekend of next October in Kansas City and visit the American Royal Barbecue. You won't be disappointed.
Gratuitous photo of beautiful horse with better hair than most women I know.