Parent of the South

As a child of the South: born in Georgia and resident of South Caorlina for the last 30+ years, and now a parent in the South, I’ve determined Five values all Southern Parents must instill into their children:

  1. Manners, Manners, Manners
    Above all else, and before all else, you must be polite and show proper respect to all people. This includes proper use (meaning everyone, young and old) of “Ma’am” and “Sir” and continual use of “May I” (even if it’s already yours) and “Thank You” even if you were wronged.

  2. Love of college football
    You must find a team and make them your own. You must love them through thick and thin and you must hate their rivals (I have some ideas of teams you can cheer for, if you need some).

    And most importantly, you must not celebrate special events on fall Saturday’s – especially weddings. No daughter of the South shall ever schedule a wedding between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

  3. Exposure to Beach Music
    You must learn to shag and to make sure your children do as well. And shagging can only be done to Beach Music. While most people are familiar with the Drifters, the Temptations, and the Four Tops, you must also be conversant with groups like Chairman of the Board, the Catalinas, the Embers, and the Tymes.

    If not, how else do you propose to have a Southern wedding?

  4. Wardrobe of seersucker and flip flops
    To not only be Southern, but to also look Southern, your children must have a collection of seersucker suits/dresses and flip flops. Both of these materials breathe the best, which is a necessity in the hot and dirty south.

    There is some leeway here for girls as a good sandal can take the place of flip flops. Should typically be white, or other light color, and be adorned with flowers or fun insects.

    However, please note there are some exceptions to this rule. For guys, no sandals. None. For girls, the following brands are off limits to be considered Southern: Tevas, Birchenstocks, and Crocs – even they make flip flops.

    This should go without saying, but socks with either seersucker or flip flops is explicitly outlawed. In general, socks in the South are optional – even for work.

  5. A few great expressions
    What makes Paula Dean so lovable, besides the butter, are the expressions, and every Southerner must have a few in their staple. They do not need to make sense, but they need to be understood – know what I’m saying? Southern expressions are generally silly, confusing, and grammatically incorrect, when read outside of a Southern conversation – kind of like athletes’ tweets outside of a sporting event. But you must have them.

    Generally, 5-10 will get you through most every situation in life – and you’ll never be at a loss for words.

As you try to raise Southern children, please note, Southern reality tv is not your barometer. You may not use any of the sayings, dress, or tricks shown on Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, Swamp Loggers, or any other “Southern” reality show to increase your Southern standing. It must be legit and from you, the parent, not some terd on tv.

So – how are you parents of the South doing in raising our next great Southern generation? Any other necessities I missed? Am I wrong on any?

Even if I were, would your Southern hospitality and manners be allowed to tell me?

A Marriage of Meat

Before we even begin this discourse, let me say this:

“A wife is not a piece of meat”

Now, with that said, let me tell you how making great barbecue is eerily similar to making a great marriage.

A great marriage doesn’t just occur. And neither does mouthwatering barbecue. Most of us understand the effort required to make a marriage flourish, which includes items like planning, hard work, patience, creativity, prayer, and commitment, but you may not realize how the same components are required for mouthwatering barbecue.

Planning
Pulling off a successful cook requires advance planning. There are cook times, ingredients, prep work, equipment, meat, and the serving to consider. You take notes, read books, and ask questions, all in an effort to become a better pittmaster.

Hard Work
Pulling off a successful cook is not easy. And it doesn’t just happen. You can’t just push a button or plug something in and turn out great barbecue. It will make you sweat, wear you out, and drop to you to your knees. But the more you put into making great barbecue, the more you get out. Actually, you get much more out of it.

Patience
“If you’re looking, you ain’t cooking.” The more you look, the longer it takes. And cooking great barbecue takes FOREVER. Upwards of 16 hours, not counting the prep time, rest time, serving time, or pulling time.

And guys, if we’re looking, we ain’t cooking, when it comes to our eyes and our marriage.

Creativity
There are only so many ways you can cook a butt. It has to take 12-16 hours to be good and needs smoke to give it great flavor and bark. So to stand out from the crowd, you need to be creative. Creative in your rubs, spices, sauces, and woods. And if you find the right balance, in conjunction with everything else, you may be the one holding the trophy and the big check at the end of the weekend.

Prayer
While prayer is an essential part to a great marriage, you may not consider it a key component to great barbecue. You’d be wrong – way wrong. So many things can go wrong while cooking for 16 hours, many of which you have no control over.

I’ve seen hot, humid weather, where you had a hard time keeping the temps down, change to a monsoon, causing fires to go out, equipment to get soaked, psyche to get crushed, and schedules to get ruined. And if you’re not praying, you have no prayer…

Commitment
The most important piece of any marriage is commitment and the same is true for barbecue. You have a tried and true plan, one you’ve seen work countless times, but even so, when things begin to go awry, the tendency is to change what you know works and try something else.

You give up your plan and toss it aside and you if you have no chance for success. You can’t change what you’re doing because someone else does it differently. You can’t take your schedule and try to cheat it. You can’t “wing it”. You need to be committed to your plan, no matter what.

Also, there is an unwritten rule in barbecue: “You eat what you cook, no matter what”. It doesn’t matter if you burn the meat or if your chances in the creativity department don’t work or if the schedule wasn’t right. You eat what you cook – no questions asked.

The same is true for marriage. When you say “I do”, you say it for better or worse, no matter what. If things get tough, you stick it out. If things don’t go as planned, you stick it out. No matter what.

So, next time you have a craving for barbecue, think of your spouse. And take the time to enjoy both.

I Vow to Never…

What makes the summer Olympics so relatable is the sense that with proper training, dedication, & diet, we too could become a gold medalist. We feel like we could be the best swimmer or diver or speed-walker or marksman.

I get the same feeling every July 4th watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. When I look at Joey Chestnut, or any other competitor, I don’t see any God-given talent: he doesn’t have to run fast or jump high. He just has to eat.

And as the title character in Antwone Fisher said, “I could eat”.

And not only can I eat, I love to eat. I enjoy and appreciate food – it is more than sustenance to me.

But eating for the joy of it and eating competitively are two different things.

I know, because a few years ago I got my shot to go “All in” with a large cheese pizza. But for me, there was no championship belt, prize money, or live tv crew. There were no fancy introductions, special costumes, or announcers.

My shot at the world of competitive eating wasn’t the main attraction; it was only another cheap crowd pleaser at a minor league baseball game. And most people weren’t even paying attention; they were trying to convince the sun to set so the main act could begin: fireworks. Apparently it takes 15-20 minutes to get fireworks ready, and there is no better space filler than people stuffing their faces with Papa Johns.

And I was only selected when I asked the head of entertainment a question about a totally different topic. She kept ignoring my questions, never even looking up from her clipboard. When she was fully exasperated, she glanced up. And what she saw turned her mourning into dancing. Just to make sure, she took a second glance. Looked me up and down, smiled, and told me I was contest #5.

Contestant #5 in tonight’s eating challenge. And that I should meet her after the game to go on the field and participate.

They didn’t even know my name – never asked. I was just one of six guys selected from the crowd. Four of the guys were part of a bachelor party and were too libated to know better. One was a high school athlete with a daily caloric intake similar to Michael Phelps. And there was me.

They gave each of us a leftover Papa John’s pizza from the concession stand and a small cup of water. We were to have 10 minutes to eat the entire pizza. First one finishes, wins. Crust must be eaten to count.

The countdown begins and away we go. The high school kid jumps out to an early lead, followed by the most drunk of the soon to be groomsmen. I am somewhere in the middle.

After the first few minutes, the high school kid begins to fade as do two members of the bachelor party. They ate the crust first and it killed their buzz. They began to realize what they were doing. I am holding steady, tied for second with the third member of the bachelor party. We both trail the fourth member of the bachelor party, who has somehow snuck a beer into the competition.

At the halfway point, it’s down to the beer drinkin’ groomsmen and myself. He has the lead, three friends prodding him on, and a continual buzz. It’s not looking good for me.

Entering the fourth quarter, I’m still trailing. My jaw is wearing out and it hurts to chew. I look over and this guy is still going strong. And he’s washing it down with more beer.

I give it my all, but in the end, I am no match for beer and a bachelor party. Neither one of us finishes the pizza, but he ate more than I did. I make a comment about beer, crust, and rules to the event coordinator, but she doesn’t care. The natives want fireworks and she doesn’t have the stomach to watch anyone else eat more food, so she brushes me off and declares him the winner. He smiles and shouts his dominance. His friends feed him another beer and secretly take his photo.

I head back to the crowd and find my party. They pat me on the back and give me well-wishes. The pats hurt. So do the metal seats. The pain of eating begins to set in and it forces me to lay across the bleachers.

I vow to never eat again.

Then I think of all the foods I could never eat again. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat pizza again. Then I think of the wood fire grilled pizzas and Mellow Mushroom and dessert pizza. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat too much again. Then I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and buffets and homemade desserts. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest again. Then I think of Man vs Food and how awesome some of the challenges would be. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest against a drunk bachelor party again.

Now that will work.

Chick-fil-A Reminder of What Could Have Been

With us just 24-hours removed from National Chick-fil-A (CFA) day, the water is still warm enough to flush out one final thought. I promise.

Last year, CFA grossed $4.1B in sales.

The major debate? The donation of $2M to certain charities.

While the donations seem to be a staggering number, they actually only represent 0.049% of CFA’s gross annual sales.

For comparison’s sake, the $4.1B in sales can be broken down to assume CFA grosses $13.1M in daily sales.

For all the attention surrounding yesterday, it is safe to assume CFA received a 50% bump in business, meaning CFA did an extra $6.5M in sales.

Converting the $6.5M in additional sales to donation increases to the charities in question raises an increase of $3,200.

So, $6.5M in increased sales equates to $3,200 in additional contributions.

$3,200.

Now let’s play the “What If” game.

What if we used the $6.5M to fight other things, things that will have an actual impact or benefit to people, what would that look like?

  • $6.5M would fund 2,600 adoptions from Foster Care
  • $6.5M would fund 650 domestic adoptions
  • $6.5M would fund 325 international adoptions
  • $6.5M would support 18,000 impoverished children for one year
  • $6.5M would treat 5,900 people with AIDS for one year
  • $6.5M would provide clean water to 325,000 people
  • $6.5M would provide 65,000 Wounded Warrior Project Backpacks
  • $6.5 M would provide 130,000 school supplies and backpacks to school-age children
  • $6.5M would provide 430 specialized wheelchairs to disabled soldiers returning from war
  • $6.5M would provide Christmas presents to 50,000 families

These comparisons could continue to be made for shoes, vaccines, clothing, education, meals, and medical needs.

But what do we care, we just stood up for what we believe in, stuck it to the government, and were able to wash down waffle fries with a sweet tea.

The only thing this $6.5M won’t help much with is swaying this year’s election, which looks like it will cross the $1B mark, or 150 times yesterday’s sales at CFA.

Just think what we could do with $1B…

Okay, I’m done. Continue on America!

BBQ Chicken on the Grill

I’ve never been brave enough to put together a whole post based just on a recipe, nevertheless something I put together, but after tonight’s BBQ chicken, that will be changing. This is a simple, yet unbelievable version of grilled (and smoked) bbq chicken.

For this version, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts since that is what we had available, but this recipe would also work great with split chicken breasts or thick pork chops.

Also, this recipe works best using a grill with two or more independently controlled burners.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Ziploc bag or other container
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • BBQ Rub (I used my own rub)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Wood chips
  • BBQ Sauce (I used a store bought sweet & spicy bourbon sauce)

Directions:

  1. Place chicken breasts into large ziploc bag or sealable container
  2. Add enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to judiciously coat the chicken
  3. Add 3-4 Tablespoons of your favorite BBQ rub. I had some homemade rub leftover from a previous cook, so I used this. The rub should lightly coat the chicken so as to turn the EVOO a similar color as to the base of the rub
  4. Set chicken aside to marinate
  5. Light one-half of the grill burners and set to Medium-High
  6. While grill is warming up, take aluminum foil and fold to form a pouch or bowl and insert wood chips. Be sure to leave the top open for smoke to leave pouch. Place loaded pouch directly on burner. (See pic below of my setup)
  7. Once grill is hot, sear chicken directly over heat for 3-5 minutes per side
  8. After each side is seared, move chicken to highest rack on non-heat side
  9. Generously apply BBQ sauce to chicken and flip so sauce side is down. Sauce other side
  10. After approximately 15 minutes, turn chicken and apply additional BBQ sauce as desired
  11. Add additional wood chips, as needed
  12. Cook as such until internal temp reaches 165.

    Use solo, pair with a side, or use it to top a salad.

    Thanks and let me know what you think!

Chick-fil-A May End the World

I have this feeling the world may come to an end next week, more specifically next Wednesday. I don’t have a secret Mayan calendar nor is there a crazy radio host whispering in my ear. But I believe the world will come to an end next Wednesday, August 1st.

Or at least it feels that way reading the news, perusing social media, and hanging out at the water cooler. Why? Because Mike Huckabee dubbed next Wednesday “National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”.

And having a day focused on celebrating Chick-fil-A is a direct affront to those boycotting Chick-fil-A. And since this debate over Chick-fil-A has two distinct sides, it means we have a divided house. And as Jesus once famously quoted Abraham Lincoln: “Any house divided against itself cannot stand”, which means this house will be destroyed.

And as I sit back and prepare for the wreckage, I am torn. Not about which side to take, but about what this debate says about us – on both sides.

For instance, what does this debate say about the vocal, and sometimes vulgar, opponents of Chick-fil-A? Those are willing to stand up to protect the rights of others, even if they’re not directly impacted. Those who now refuse to partake of Mr. Truett’s establishments? But it’s also the same group who admittedly never eats there anyway, claims the chicken is “shitty”, and resorts to name calling to make their point.

Is this a war worth waging? Is this the hand you want to go all in with? Using slavery, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement as your argument is not helping your cause. It’s making it worse. Not ONE gay person is owned by another person. Every gay person has the right to vote. And every gay person has the right to eat where they want to eat, stay where they want to stay, and buy what they want to buy. Even Chick-fil-A gladly gives you this right.

Regardless of my feelings on gay marriage, everyone has the right to pursue their cause. It just seems this battle, against this opponent, is not worth fighting. It’s like having pocket deuces while your opponent has pocket rockets.

On the other hand, what does this say about those with the newfound expendable income, who have turned a normal Wednesday into must-do experience? What does it say about a group that has been silent for so long to suddenly push back, both with their voices and their wallets? What does it say about me?

I admire our willingness to finally be heard, but we need to ask ourselves the same question we asked our opponents: Is this a war worth raging? Is this the hand we want to go all in with? Is fast food really the best use of our funds, knowing only a percent of a percent actually goes to the charities in question? Wouldn’t we be better off donating the price of #1 combo to a charity that actively tries to prevent gay marriage or council those struggling with homosexuality? And is standing in line for dinner really taking action?

So next Wednesday, the two sides will collide. Collateral damage will be strewn about. But for what gain? If those opposing Chick-fil-A win, will same sex marriage suddenly become law? And if those supporting Chick-fil-A win, will homosexuality suddenly disappear?

While I admire the efforts of both groups, this whole debate feels hollow. It feels like we are putting all our eggs in one basket, a basket that will inevitably break every egg from both sides.

Why don’t we take this energy and focus it towards something more useful, lasting, and important – like abortion.

I can somewhat understand the other side not wanting to fight this battle as it’s already been won. But I don’t understand why my side seems to remain quiet.

Why don’t we rise up and fight abortion with the same fervor we’re fighting gay marriage? Why don’t we support the unborn the way we support Chick-fil-A? Why don’t we get united behind this cause like we are for National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day?

Does our cause need to be better organized? Does it need a prominent champion the way Mike Huckabee has become for Chick-fil-A? Does it need to involve something we’re already attached to, like waffle fries?

Or is the Chick-fil-A cause just convenient?

I wish I knew – and I wish I were doing more myself…

It Could Be Worse

At some point each of us must face some pretty harsh truths: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy – and most adults don’t get summer vacation.

But just because we don’t get the summer off from work doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. A few years ago, Tanger was in the process of being redeveloped. And with the redevelopment came three new restaurants.

Unfortunately, one of the restaurants (to remain nameless) was forced to have the majority of the construction occur in the heat of the summer.

On one Al Gore type summer day, the foreman, who I’d gotten to know quite well, called to ask a few questions. It was just after lunch and the heat was clearly taking a toll. He was short of breath and I could hear him wiping his brow.

When I answered, he started with “Holy S%#^, it’s hot out here!” Followed by further gasps for air and the sounds of him chugging water.

My response: “Really? It’s a lovely 74 degrees here, with a slight breeze. Matter of fact, I was a little chilly earlier and had to put on a sweater.”

His response: “Willy – F%#^ YOU!”

Once I stopped laughing, I helped him out and we both went our merry ways.

The moral of the story is this – just because you don’t get a vacation, doesn’t mean you should pity yourself. It could be worse: you could be laboring in the summer sun only to have some smartass in an air conditioned office giving you some lip.