by Jules Older
I am not a vegetarian.
But I live with a vegetarian — well, a mostly vegetarian, and when the vegetarian’s daughters (and mine) come home, then we get into serious vegetarianism. Because I'm outnumbered, three to one.
Now, I have nothing — well, almost nothing — against vegetarianism. It’s true, I think the best diet is a richly diverse one. And it’s true that I think everything about us, from our taste buds to the shape of our teeth to our digestive systems, indicates that we are built for eating meat as well as tofu.
But at home, I'm more likely to get tofu.
That’s why it gave me such pleasure when the editor of Vermont Magazine called and said, “Jules, m’boy, we’d like you to get yourself down to Windsor. Write us a story on the New England BBQ Championships.”
And I was even happier when he added, “Oh, and bring the vegetarian photographer with you.”
Payback’s a brisket.
So to Windsor we went, leaving all that spinach and beets and zucchini at home, and hoofin’ it south for some soul food. BBQ.
Let it roll around your tongue.
Doesn’t the very word make you salivate? Smoked ribs. Tender chicken. Charbroiled brisket. All manner of fowl and cow and big fat pigs making the supreme sacrifice, so that we may live out our destinies. Our bodies, our selves. You are what you eat. Bring on the BBQ!
To Windsor we went. And quickly discovered that the New England BBQ Championships bears the same resemblance to a backyard BBQ as a Maserati does to a Yugo. We’re not talking about throwing a few burgers on the Weber. Oh, no. We’re not talking about tarting up some chicken wings with a bottle of Open Pit sauce from PriceChopper.
What we are talking about is the pursuit of perfection in the ancient art of converting once-were-mammals and barnyard fowl into succulent, smoky, melt-in-yer-mouth, never-eat-tofu-again victuals.
We’re talkin’ meat.
It was a dream come true — the vegetarian photographer and I hangin’ out with the BBQ judges as they decided who were the best smokers in New England.
I must say this — she was a good sport about the whole ordeal. She snacked on chicken, gnawed at a rib or two, even tasted the brisket. She went the extra mile. She ate the extra pound.
And, to give her the credit she’s due, not once did she point out that many of the judges — the folks holding down the carnivore’s dream job — weighed in at something over 300 pounds. And looked like their cholesterol levels might just be permanently peaking in the XXX Red Danger Zone.
By the end of the day, my levels were dangerously high, as well. But I went home a happy man. I'd had my animal-protein fix. I was sated. I could look forward with acceptance, if not pleasure, to eleven more months of vegetable fiber, seitan, and nutritious soy products.
Why am I so accepting of my fate? Because I know that one short year from that day, the New England BBQ Championships would be back.
And so would I.
For more of Jules Older’s travel adventures and misadventures, sink your teeth into his new ebook, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love. It’s available on all platforms, including the YourLifeIsATrip.com Trip Shop powered by Amazon.