Colorful team names are plentiful on the BBQ cook-off circuit.
On a sweltering Texas Saturday afternoon I passed judgement on 21 bites of BBQ pork ribs followed by 15 bites of chili; 36 bites in all--washed down with 4 bottles of water and a light beer.
Each contestant submits his or her entry in an identical container, which is assigned a number by the organizers to preserve anonymity. The boxes are then passed around the judging table. Using a new plastic utensil to keep from spreading germs, each judge cuts off a bite (or dips it out if you're tasting chili or beans) and scores it based on aroma, appearance, texture, taste and overall impression. Gotta' think fast, the next plate is coming.
About ten minutes into the rib round, a fellow judge, one of the old salts in the BBQ competition 'bidness', told me, "You don't have to eat it if it don't look right."
I wished he'd said that a few minutes earlier, when I cut into a not-quite-done rib that might have come from a cook who'd had too fine a Friday night resulting in too late a start on Saturday morning.
But the chili made the biggest impression. You wouldn't think 15 little bites would blaze a trail through your innards.
You'd be wrong.
Chili waiting to be tasted.
By the end you might not want to eat again for a couple of days.
But when you recover you'll think maybe next time you'll go for the brisket panel. There's nothin' prettier than pink smoke rings, visual messengers of flavor.
And if you do judge chili, you'll know to drink a whole lotta beer to cut the grease and keep up your hydration. And you'll bring your spouse to drive you home.
So while you're thinking about it, check out the schedules for Texas BBQ cook-offs: Lonestar BBQ Society, Central Texas Barbeque Association, Texas Gulf Coast BBQ Cookers Association, and these other places too: BBQ Cooking Contests and Events.
When it's over you'll remember the people you met and stories they told and Texas-good time you had.
Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.