Thursday, May 31, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Kent Whitaker, Author of Chow Line

The Passing of a Smoker

A sad thing happened this past week. I lost a friend in the barbecue cookbook and culinary writing business. My favorite old, rusty, tired and trusted smoker suffered a massive rust blow out and will have to be retired. The piece of cooking equipment was lovingly referred to as “Old Smoke” in my circle of barbecue and grilling buddies. Alas, Old Smoke is moving on to that great barbecue cook out in the sky.

I knew this day was coming. Ally and I spent a weekend the year before last working on Old Smoke in a revitalization effort. We sanded, patched, bolted and tightened. I even put on a new coat of black grill paint. Old Smoke looked great but deep down I knew that it was just a short term fix. I bought the barrel type smoker years ago and it has been my standard “go to” cooking unit since.

My dog Moses, or Big Mo, and I have spent countless evenings sitting in our lawn chairs watching the sun set and keeping an eye on Old Smoke during a rib session. You can solve many of life’s problems while scratching your golden retrievers head and chatting with your wife and son. At times the night air would be filled with a tantalizing mix of Braves baseball on the radio and wisps of hickory smoke. And yes, Moses has his own lawn chair.

I’m going try one more time to repair Old Smoky. I know it will be a lost cause… but I feel the need to make an effort. It’s owed to Old Smoke to at least try even though the outlook is not bright. As of this writing the decision on having a wake is still up in the air. If I have one, I know my friends will come over; if not for Old Smoke… then for the Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Ally knows this is a tough loss for me. She told me that Old Smoke could go on to help other smokers and grills hidden behind our back yard shed. Each serves a different purpose. One is for charcoal grilling, one is for tailgating, and the gas grills are used for different events. A handle from Old Smoke could go to use here, a grilling-grate could be used there. “It’s like a smoker donor program,” she said.

Old Smoke and I were together for a long time on my continuing search for barbecue wisdom.  I learned about everything from rubs to moisture control and mops to sauces. Countless recipes for several books were experimented with and tested inside Old Smokes Chamber. Some of the dishes were good, some great… and some I’m trying to forget. Old Smoke was there as my son Mace and I practiced little league baseball in the back yard. And Old Smoke was there when Ally and I held a party for Mace before upon his return home from boot camp. Old Smoke was there when my parents came into town to see the unique fixer upper home that Ally and I purchased. After a series of tornados that took out the power for a week Old Smoke was put to use as a neighborhood kitchen.

Every time I traveled for a book tour, media event or spokesperson gig a rented smoker was used. More often than not the event organizers would rent or borrow a piece of equipment that was sub-par, too small or completely wrong. Yes, there is a difference between a gas grill and a wood smoker. And yes, there is a huge difference between grilling and slow smoked barbecue. I would make due, use what I had and hope for the best product possible. I always came back to good old hickory, smoke and low temps. Old Smoke knew that I would be back with Big Mo or Macee close behind.

I know this sounds dumb to many. Why such an affection for a broken grill? I guess the only correlation I have is why would somebody have a soft spot in their hearts for grandmother’s china, mom’s wedding dress, dad’s old recliner and footstool? I always knew what I was going to get when I fired up that smoker. It was a constant, and I will miss it. It’s always nice to have something that you can depend on no matter how old, wise or independent you are.

I guess it’s time to start shopping around for the next “Old Smoke” so that I can continue serving up lasting family memories.

Slow Grilled Pork Ribs

A very easy rib recipe and a great way to get some good hickory taste on a gas grill. You can watch me cook a version of this recipe online.
2 racks pork ribs membrane removed
Salt & pepper
1/ 2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/ 2 cup ketchup
1/ 4 cup mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Lay the ribs out on a foil pan. Gently rub with some salt and pepper. You can use lemon pepper seasoning of you wish. Mix the vinegar, ketchup, mustard and lemon juice. Baste the ribs completely. Use a few good size hickory chunks & charcoal or hickory chips on your gas grill in a smoke box set up for medium high direct heat. Place the ribs on the grill and cook for about 10 minutes on both sides. Turn as needed and cook until the outside has a nice brown and golden look. This should only take about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove the ribs from the grill and place back into the foil pan. Add a bit of water or a dash of beer for extra moisture if needed. Cover the pan tightly with foil and move to a cooler area of the grill or reduce the heat to as low as it will go. Cook for an additional 2 hours. This will keep in the hickory taste and make your ribs very, very tender. Serve hot with a good basting of your favorite barbecue sauce.

Thanks for stopping by to share some food for thought, Kent!

Kent Whitaker is a cookbook author and culinary writer with ten published books which include cookbooks, two children’s books and a World War Two culinary history book. He is the winner of the Food Network Emeril Live Barbecue Contest. The Texas Hometown Cookbook, which he co-authored with Sheila Simmons, was awarded a Gold Medal from the American Author’s Association. Kent is also a member and AUXCHEF for the United States Coast Guard Aux. Kent and his wife Ally live in East Tennessee with their son Mace and two spoiled dogs. Kent's books are available, or can be ordered, at any book store or online.

You can find Kent and his many works here:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Monica Bustinza

Monica Bustinza, Meals From the Heart

The children of one Miami pre-k class no longer worry about going hungry on the weekends, thanks to teen Monica Bustinza. This high school student feels that “there are so many people out there that need help, not just in the global society, but in our community. And when you realize those things, it makes you want to make a difference.” 

And make a difference she has; every weekend, her Meals From the Heart organization puts together a bag of food for the families of all 18 children in her adopted preschool class. Even more impressive is that while Monica works to build relationships with local businesses and grocery stores, for now she personally earns and collects the money to make the weekly purchases, as well as sending the students home with turkeys for Thanksgiving and gifts for Christmas. 

Seeing what she’s already been able to accomplish on her own, I’d say not even the sky’s the limit for Monica once she secures that corporate support.

Meet the girl with the mission here:

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reach for the Thousands!

Once the second book of my Solid series hit the shelves, I wanted to get out and *meet* more readers in the social media. Thanks to the series’ BEST-EVER fans, I quickly reached my 1st goal of 1,000 Twitter followers, 1,000 Facebook fans, and 1,000 shelvings of the books on Goodreads. 

But in all that Solid hype, my poor blog was a bit neglected. :( I think people may have skipped past But What Are They Eating? because it’s not about Solid, which is a shame because the blog has a life of its own with many fun features. BWATE?  has weekly FoodFic reviews of other books, Meta-Me word games, celebrations for Toastworthy Teens, lyrics you can Sayng, and, of course, Hops!

Why don’t you take a look around right now? I’ll wait. ;)

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Welcome back! I hope you had liked what you saw and are now going to follow to help us (me and the blog) reach our 1,000 followers goal! 

To further entice you, I’m offering a free e-copy of Solid to everyone who follows.* AND (in keeping with the thousands theme) the first thousand followers who then review Solid on Goodreads will receive a free e-copy of Settling!

Thanks for helping BWATE? catch up to all of its sister sites; I look forward to hearing from you!

*Once you've followed this blog, leave a comment below with the email address you'd like your ebook sent to. Please also indicate whether you'd prefer your ebook as a Kindle file or a .pdf (for Nook or PC). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Jeffrey Stanton

Jeffrey Stanton, Jeffrey's Toy Closet

Jeffrey Stanton doesn’t wait for Christmas to play Santa; through his charity, he delivers toys to girls and boys in need all year long. 

And even though Jeffrey may be only 14 years old, Jeffrey’s Toy Closet has given out more than 16,000 toys (!) in the 6 years (!) he’s been at work.

Jeffrey does this simply because the looks on the kids’ faces are “just so awesome,” but there’s a little more to his story; not only was he born with autism, but when he was 2 years old and his mother was undergoing chemotherapy and battling Lupus, a near-death experience at work put his father in intensive care for 4 months. That year, Bob and Elizabeth Dole brought Jeffrey the Christmas gifts his family couldn’t afford, so the Stantons know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of great generosity as well. 

And let’s see – Jeffrey’s paid that gift forward 16,000 times! “Just so awesome” sounds just about right. ;)

See Jeffrey’s work firsthand here:

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Nick Tucker, Author of Nike's Chinese New Year

"I managed to swallow the first bite with difficulty. As I felt it burning its way down my throat, my heart began to do flip flops in my ribcage. The morsel of food hit my stomach like a glob of lava in a lava lamp."

When I decided to set my latest story in the People's Republic of China, a whole world of mouth watering possibilities opened up. The narrator, Nike, is an American engineer who has been sent to China to work for several months. His adventures exploring the country not only include the magnificent sights and the curious culture of the nation of China, but also lead him mouth-first into some stomach-churning encounters.

Nike learns about some of the food eaten during the Chinese New Year by making and eating dumplings called "jiaozi", as their shape resembles gold ingots. Dumplings are thought to bring wealth to those who eat them and are also a symbol of renewal. Later on, he eats at a local restaurant famous for their bird nest soup. The chief ingredient in bird’s nest soup is the nest of the swiftlet, a tiny bird that lives in caves in Southeast Asia. Instead of twigs and straw, the swiftlet makes a nest from its own saliva – the only bird in the world to do so. Nike's food forays vary from exotic to downright unusual, eventually culminating in a showdown with a bowl of dog penis soup!

But humans aren't the only ones who have to eat. Nike visits a nature preserve in the city of Harbin where live animals are fed to the endangered Siberian tiger (for an exuberant price, of course). There's never a shortage of mind-blowing culture shock as Nike stumbles from one comedic episode to the next.

Check out Nike's Chinese New Year:

Thanks for sharing your food for thought, Nick!

 You can find Nick here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Kendall Ronzano

Kendall Ronzano, Nerd Girl Homes
The house 16-year-old Kendall Ronzano is building may be tiny, but her heart is tremendous. The California teen is channeling her life-long love of building into the construction of a 117 sq. ft. Lusby model portable home

Kendall, deeply affected by both the homelessness she sees in her own town as well as the global destruction that has taken the homes of so many in recent years, plans to either donate the completed house to a deserving recipient, or to raffle it off and donate the proceeds to charity. 

She credits her parents for having always encouraged her to “dream big” – I’d say they gave her the perfect foundation on which to build an inspiring life. :)
Follow Kendall’s progress on her site:

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Friday, May 11, 2012

FOODFIC: XVI - Julia Karr

One of my favorite parts of dystopian/utopian literature is reading what writers think food will be like in the future – which familiar items will stand the test of time and which will disappear from our palates. In the future Nina Oberon’s living in, one of the “evolutions” of civilization (as we commonly see in this genre) is the loss of free will. So much so, in fact, that, for Nina, turning 16 means the loss of personal freedom rather than the gaining of it, because the milestone birthday now comes with a mandatory XVI tattoo declaring her age…and sexual availability. 

Of course, as readers we cry (perhaps even out loud) What?! Whose red-headed, step-brainchild was that?! Yet, this is just one theoretical manifestation of an almost accepted view of a future where people will exist under complete government control.  

But we are too smart and self-aware to become sheep! you declare. Well, the media messages expressed by the “verts” and the “zines” of 2150 are so strong that they eclipse all else, including critical thinking. It’s a slippery slope, and, sadly, perhaps one we’ve already begun sliding down. Our 2011 society is already too media-focused, as well as over-accelerated; we want the things that TV tells us we want, and we want them now. You may still say that that’s miles away from brainwashing, but is it? I can’t lie – I get sucked into a good infomercial like everyone else. I had to have the gazelle the minute I saw Tony what’s-his-face demonstrate it (which I actually do love and works fabulously, so that may not be the best example). 

Anyway, as a reader, I know that the 2150 regime is wicked even if the characters don’t. I know that I can’t believe a word they say and that they do not have everyone’s best interests at heart. Yet, even though I don’t even like soda, every time one of the XVI characters grabs a Sparkle! I kind of want one, too...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: James Konopka and Nick Mead

James Konopka and Nick Mead, Great Sports

High school rowers James Konopka and Nick Mead of Philadelphia began their under-17 doubles race with a medal-contending start…and then just as easily turned around and gave it up. 

Behind them, another duo had capsized and were struggling in the icy water, which, as Nick noted, “was cold and I’m sure their limbs were going numb. They were yelling ‘help’ and one of the kids didn’t appear as if he could swim too well.”

And good samaritanism wasn’t enough for the 16-year-old great sports; after waiting with the capsized pair (who were surprised competitors would stop racing to help them) and helping them into a safety launch, James and Nick then headed back out to complete the race. 

Sports and sportsmanship don’t get any better than that. :)

Do you know a toast-worthy teen you’d like to see featured here at BWATE? 
Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!