Monday, October 29, 2007

Global Pig

Another entry to skip if you are vegetarian, vegan, or don't eat pork.
Last Saturday, Oct. 27, was the 18th Annual Jack Daniels World Championship International Barbeque Cookoff. Our friends Jeff and Deb Delmas were scheduled to rough it with us down at the river cabin, but a water problem (dead pump and no way to repair it in time) stood in the way of fun. Since Jeff and I "talk pig" every occasion we get and Deb and I cook up plenty of day trips, we decided on a foodie day trip to Falls Mill near Belvedere, TN, to procure organic, down-home Christmas gifts and then on to view the circus at the 18th Annual Jack Daniels World Championship BBQ cookoff 17 miles further up the backroads in Lynchburg.

Since the morning started out cold, grey, and foggy, we skipped the scenic, leaf-peeper route we'd planned and went straight to the mill. Never a disappointment, the restored brick structure with a ginormous water wheel is a fun stop, and we promptly filled our fall order for corn meal, flours, bulgar, sorghum syrup, and many many bags of grits. (These are THE grits for making that Southern specialty Shrimp and Grits. The nice folks at the Mill will also take your orders for Christmas gift shipments; all you have to do is provide the mailing addresses and your debit card.) We walked around the mill property and shot the usual photos, then headed on our way to Lynchburg, careful to ask for the detailed map the people at Falls Mill have on hand. The road was picturesque but tricky. Beautiful meadows with hay bales, wooded hills, restored Federalist era homes, all punctuated with what could pass for the burnt-out hulls of meth-lab mobile homes.

Arriving in Lynchburg by the back roads meant little traffic and a great parking spot overlooking the big field where most of the 80 participating BBQ teams sat under tents, manning their grills and smokers. Novices, we stumbled right into the center of the action and before long strolled down the international gallery. Jeff's degree in math and philosophy from Millsaps and his high tech advanced degree from Georgia Tech came in handy as he quickly surveyed the situation and offered the complex, sage, technical wisdom: "If you see a line, get in it." As each country's chefs completed their entry for competition, they carved up what was left and gave out samples. The first sample we stumbled upon was from the Swiss team: pork tenderloin with a wild mushroom rissoto. Mmmm. There were teams from Canada, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Turkey, and my favorite: Estonia, whose team had grilled the most incredible Frenched rack of lamb that I had the pleasure to smell as they carved it up and applied the finish sauce. In the true sense of the word, I was TANTALIZED and never got to taste one morsel from this vision. The Belgian team won the most snaps from me as the team with the best clothes (they all wore bright aqua chef's coats) and team spirit (they sent their entry off to the judging tent with a team chant and cheer).

Further away from the action, the amateur division had very little foot traffic and the entrants were mostly from southern Tennessee and northern Alabama and happy to chat it up about method, maintaining constant temperature, dry rubs, etc. They had all the free samples any glutton could want. Some very fine sauces, too. Even side dishes if you were in the mood.

One disappointment: no whole hogs. One British team told us this category had been discontinued due to sparse participation and the high cost of whole hogs, which prompted the four in our party to begin reminiscing about pig roasts of our pasts. Which is an entire post unto itself. In fact, watch this blog for a post issuing an invitation to an old style whole hog pickin', an all-night affair complete with dug pit and bedsprings.

Our advice: If you ever decide to go to this Lynchburg event, avoid downtown and the 'midway' row of long porta-potty lines and bad food cooked in burned, rancid grease. Do seek out the church groups if for no other reason than they have fried pies extraordinaire, the best I've had since my grandmother died. Don't even think about visiting the distillery on this day. Plan another day trip if you're interested in that.

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