The Northern Neck Rib Challenge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story regarding the circumstances surrounding a challenge to cook, smoke, or BBQ ribs and how the challenge developed, and how the author was exposed leading up to and the day of the rib challenge. It is one of a series of letters that the author sends back to the UK periodically regarding life in the USA as seen through the eyes of a cynical Englishman.

Submitted: October 07, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 07, 2012



Letter from America
It has been some time since I took the trouble to write a letter from America, and even longer since someone asked me to. Nevertheless I can’t help it I have to put my thoughts down on papers from time to time and unfortunately you have to be the recipientso here goes. I write this on my way to France where I intend to spend the next two weeks with my good lady Patricia Flood Hammond, or as she now likes to be addressed Madam Ribolicious. I knew something like this was going to happen as soon as my good friend, and fellow trash talker Mike Gadwill challenged me to a rib cook off.
Now I will admit that on my way to the Northern Neck annual picnic I got carried away a little by the challenge of it all. When Gadwill started to suggest that I couldn’t beat his ribs then I just couldn’t accept and agree now could I? How could I tell him that I had never cooked a slab of ribs in my life? The nearest I had got was ordering half a slab of ribs at Famous Dave BBQ in Woodbridge. They tasted OK but there seemed to me a lot of bone and little meat. The only flavor seemed to come from the various sauces that accompanied the ribs. It is served with coleslaw and baked beans, and corn bread, which I have to admit, causes me to backfire within hours of consumption. I publicly laid down the gauntlet to a “fib” cook-off. Within hours others had joined in the challenge, and the trash talking, and before I knew what to say I had four others suggesting that they would be a competitor in a rib cook off. The date was set for last Sunday and throughout the summer I would build myself up as this master chef who would take on all comers. It was a question of who would be a runner up to my ribs. The trophies were purchased and photos of them circulated. I even suggested I had already had my name engraved on the winning trophy. To be frank I was full of shit.
The NNSA members were eager to participate in the competition and promised to provide the complements in the form of fabulous side dishes, desserts, and even a smoked rock fish for starters. They were expecting a gourmet picnic. A few weeks before the contest I suggested to my good lady that she might help me. She conceded straight away that she was good at smoking Boston Butts (shoulders of pork) and Chickens; in fact I will attest that Pat’s Smokey chicken is as good as it gets. It is based upon a great Alabama recipe of Big Bob Gibson who has won many a trophy at the Memphis annual BBQ festival. Some of you might remember the BBQ tour Pat and I embarked upon one Christmas a few years back. Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur Alabama was on the tour, so was the Rendezvous Café in downtown Memphis. They are famous for their dry ribs, and we tried them.
My worst fib was a story about my special sauce; I suggested one of the basic ingredients was Worcestershire Sauce. I told this story about a burglary at Lea and Perrins the home of Worcestershire sauce. I told the story about only three people knowing the recipe, Mr. Reginald Lea, Damian Perry and Bob Lessemun. I claimed I only knew the recipe because the factory was burglarized and the original recipe kept in the safe was stolen. I told how I had recovered it and that was how I could produce this unique sauce that was going to help me win the rib competition. Now you have to admit that it was a good story, after all I was from Worcester, it is the home of the original Worcestershire sauce and it was started by Lea and Perrins. There is a secret recipe and legend has it that only three people know it.I know some of you will already have started checking out these facts on Google and found that I am telling the truth. All my claimshave an element of truth.I suggested that as a favor for recovering the recipe Lea and Perrins shared it with me making me one of only three people to know the exclusive recipe, I wish that was true. No-one challenged my story, how could they, but I shared with my good wife the truth of the matter. I realize now that was part of my undoing, never trust a woman when it comes to keeping bullshit secret. My wife can be so honest; in fact at times I declare that she is too honest for both our goods. Either that or she is a better conman than me.
In any event as the summer progressed so the con continued, I have to admit that I reveled in the nonsense, week after week I put out a new email with more and more rubbish about how far ahead I was compared with my fellow challengers, I started a betting book and put myself as even money favorite. By now there were no takers, even I was starting to believe in my invincibility, people bought tickets to witness the challenge, 66 of them to be precise just to discover who would be second. I was so convincing that there were no takers in the betting stakes. I received a few emails from spectators challenging my bullshit, I just countered with more BS, and I expect it to go down in the annals of picnic banter as the biggest display of rubbish talked this side of the Mississippi.The closest anyone got was Mike Gadwill himself, he talked of me bribing judges. In fact I had talked my wife’s sister a self appointed comedian to be the judge. All I had to do now is talk him into making sure I won. I thought that I might be able to pull this off. If he declared me the winner who would argue with this stranger from Washington DC who looked as though he had consumed his fair share of BBQ. How was I to know that he was going to have a real booking on the very week he was supposed to be appointing me champion in the Northern Neck. I had to appoint a new judge and in the rush I appointed an honest couple, the owners of the Marina where the picnic was to be held. Fred and Cas were honest people, there was no bribing them, they were going to pick the winner based upon taste, what a concept.
I mentioned that Mike was close but I didn’t explain just how close, well the day before the picnic I had to deliver the slabs of ribs, I emailed him in advance and explained truthfully that I was becoming a little anxious and asked him to share his recipe for his sauce with me. He pointed me in the direction of his steer grazing out in the field and suggested I look beneath his tail. He was close wasn’t he? I tried to make a friendly gesture and conversation when I told him that I thought JB, one of the other competitors was cooking his ribs at 300 degrees for three hours and hinted that I thought that the temperature was a little high and canvassed his opinion. There was a loud guffaw and even I burst out in laughter when Mike suggested I was trying to interrogate him. I didn’t like to admit it that by that time I was a desperate man. I had to be cooking ribs in less than 24 hours. I had an audience of 66 to witness the biggest story teller in the Northern Neck exposed as a fraud. I had never cooked a rack of ribs in my life. 5 years before I was runner up in a rib challenge but that is a story for another day.
For three weeks prior I had invited my friends over for ribs whilst I perfected the recipe. I didn’t cook them, my wife did. I didn’t do a thing except claim the credit for them. In fact I talked the talk so much I convinced myself that I could win, I should win, I started to compare myself with Wolfgang Puck, Emaril Argassi and the other famous Iron Chef Bobby Flay. I was putting out emails suggesting what drink should accompany the ribs. I hinted that Jack Daniels should be thanked for providing one of the secret ingredients in my special sauce. What special sauce?
There were 9 slabs of ribs in my fridge. Our good friend Laurie Morissette had withdrawn for personal and genuine reasons. I listened intently to her story. It had a ring of truth to it, why because it was true. Perhaps I could dream up an excuse for myself. How could I, I was Mr. Trash Talker himself, I was by now signing my emails Bobby Rib Rub.I had also started to research the internet on how to cook ribs.You can boil them in onions and stuff and then grill them, you can smoke with or without rub, and there were so many different recipe for rubs that it boggled my mind. I wasn’t losing any sleep, but I must admit when I called Mike Gadwill a lozer with a capital Z after he complained about me spelling his name wrong for the last seven years and him wanting the name spelt right on the trophy I had reached the lowest of the low in insults.
I put my cap in my hand and I went to the only person I could trust enough in this big wide world to help me out of the fix, Pat Ribolicious, my good lady. I asked for her help. I pointed out that she had fed three lots of guests over the previous Saturday nights and they had been either very gracious or were delighted with her ribs. She compromised and said that if she was going to cook them she wanted to enter the competition. I agreed to all her demands, we discussed the method and settled on smoking with rub, she made the rub and to this day I have no idea what was in it. I pasted it on the ribs with a coating of olive oil, virgin olive oil at that. We used Mesquite wood in the smoker. Then she brilliantly thought of switching water in the smoker to a secret substance (not Jack Daniels), my God that was brilliant. 1.5 hours into the 4 hour cooking the smoker wouldn’t get above 175 degrees, time to switch to the oven. As we switched another brilliant idea, let’s paint the ribs with that sauce she makes for the chicken. This was another brilliant move. We covered them in foil, and the rest is a secret I will never know about because I transported myself to Olverson’s Marina to prepare for the picnic. Upon my arrival the host Fred Olverson pointed out that there were several bottles of wine left over from the wine tasting the night before. Between us we drank all the bottles but to be fair he was still sober at the time of judging. There simply wasn’t time to influence the judge, and even if I did I couldn’t have persuaded Cas, I was locked in to a fair system. It didn’t stop us putting on the best picnic we have had in a very long time.
5pm came; it was time for the judging. We had 6 contestants and each put two of their ribs in a separate metal tray for judging. On the bottom of each tray was the name of the cooker of the ribs. The champion was Madam Ribolicious. I had put my ribs into the competition which were exactly the same as Pats bug with some hot sauce. I sabotaged my own entry. I didn’t get a mention. Pat won fair and square. I disqualified myself. Why did I do that, because I only had 5 trophies and there were 6 cooks. One had to go without. Who deserved to lose with a capital Z, me and so I announced the winner, and let the Commodore announce the runner up and the three commended. No-one said anything about Mr Rib Rub coming nowhere. I finished up in exactly the position I deserved.
The moral of this story is that before embarking on a full season of BS, have a look under Mike Gadwills steer’s tail. I hope everyone enjoys this story as much as I have writing it. When I left the police force after 32 years, I was given a giant card. I remember vividly the card was signed by most of the detectives I had the pleasure of working with. On the front was the picture of a large cow, and it read, “You are off to pasture new”and then when I opened it up it read, “But beware there are cowpats in every field” Sometimes I need a steer in the right direction to remind me of that. Pats rib were bloody good, I was proud of her, but when I went to bed that night there was a trophy on the pillow between us. I put it there. We both looked at it and just burst out laughing.
It was a real good picnic!!!!
Bobby Rib Rub
ow was I to know that he and my wife’s sister would have a domestic on the very week of the BBQ. I had to switch judges in midstream
Bob Lessemun
703-615-2806 (Cell)
703-588-0440 (office)
PO Box 261
CallaoVa 22435


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