Buddy's Blog

Lending a Much-Needed Hand

During the TV news coverage of the tornadoes in the South, Smithville, MS was brought to my attention by someone calling in to report the severity of the damage there. They had real trouble – 16 dead, 150 houses splintered, 14 of 16 businesses destroyed, and a car actually hit the top of their water tank! Originally from Mississippi, I wanted to do something for them personally, more than just writing a check. I discussed a trip to the South among friends and found a member of Team Smoke EZ, Jim Flewellen, who wanted to go also. We jokingly called ourselves “BBQ without Borders” and were quite pleased to find support among our friends and neighbors.

We contacted the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to merge our plans into their already organized efforts. We purchased 450 pounds of meat, 55 pounds of spices for rub, 8 gallons of sauce and a couple of huge ice chests, all at a discounted price at Restaurant Depot. We split everything up and literally stuffed it into our SUV’s to leave early the next morning. On the way south from Chicago, we talked to MEMA’s Susan Gregersen who had assigned us to join the disaster relief team at the Church of Christ in Smithville. After a hard 12 hour drive, we checked in with MEMA’s on-site team at the Church. Two couples led the disaster relief team at the church, Jim and Brenda McCrary and Larry and Charlotte Dabbs. I mention their names because they had already been there working for a week when Jim and I arrived; and I know they had to be tired. They led a revolving team of volunteers to efficiently provide hot meals and drinks to the residents and the first responders in the town of Smithville. They found us a corner site on the church parking lot and helped us set up.

On that evening, we lit up our two Weber charcoal grills equipped with our SMOKE EZ attachments in order to attack the demands of the lunchtime frenzy the following day. We established two cook cycles on the smokers and quickly realized that we were not going to get a lot of sleep. It was sort of like a real long BBQ competition. Fortunately, Jim and I had that competition experience of trading off night time cooking duties tending to the butts; so, that’s how we worked in a couple of two hour naps here and there. The patrolling police eventually got used to the fact that we were the only other people in town awake all night. We were dedicated to cooking really good BBQ for these folks; they had had enough hamburgers and hot dogs. Off-site there were other teams with larger Southern Pride cookers preparing ribs and chicken to provide a nice variety to the menu. And the church kitchen provided salads and side-dishes to complete the meals being offered. The disaster relief team was set up to fry chicken nuggets, corn and French fries; and they did a good job of moving through everything from the food lockers at the local grocery store that had been destroyed by the tornado. The dining tents hosted an orderly procession of local residents starting early with breakfast biscuits and continuing through lunch and dinner. Brenda was there every morning at 6:00am to make coffee, thank you.

We listened to stories of narrow escapes, lost neighbors, homes destroyed and cars flying around in the funnel cloud fifty feet above the ground. The meals were a time for gathering with friends and sharing their experiences. They were universally wide-eyed with despair at what they had gone through. But they ate! That first lunch was a challenge to get the pork pulled fast enough; each 30 pound tray lasted 15 minutes. But then we double racked the SMOKE EZ’s with 50 pounds in each and enlisted some help on pulling. Everything smoothed out nicely. If you wanted BBQ, you had to get there early. But even in the midst of the disaster atmosphere, people made their way back to our corner of the site to say thank you.

Since we were smoking more meat per meal than we anticipated, we were on schedule to run out of meat by the third day. Then a car just pulled up next to our tent and a guy asked,” Anybody need some pork butts, I got four cases here”. Back in business!! By the end of the week we had cooked over 600 pounds of BBQ, pork loins, pork tenderloins, catfish and shrimp. Overall the site was feeding 1200 folks a day. On Saturday, the Corps of Engineers ordered all the volunteers to be out by Sunday so they could bulldoze the town and begin to rebuild. We closed down our efforts and, for the first time in four days, we put out our fires.

On a sleepy ride home, it dawned on me that BBQ competitions had really prepared us to participate effectively in the disaster relief effort. And that the broad base of other BBQ teams nationwide is equally as well prepared. Those huge competition rigs, the talented cooks, the resources at their disposal, the great quality food they produce - all would be warmly received.
I would urge everyone to contact their state’s emergency management agencies to volunteer at the time disasters occur. As the leaders of the church group told me “We don’t need food donations right now. We need the manpower to cook it up and get the meals out.” It is not often we can contribute so much, so easily.

KCBS newsletter

We have been members of the Kansas City Barbeque Society since last year and have enjoyed their newsletter The Bullsheet for its singular focus on barbeque. They publish all the results from the various BBQ contests and they offer recipes from members who share an interest in smoking. We decided that they would be a good forum in which to launch an ad of our own; so, we took out a space and gave it a whirl. If you are a KCBS member, you’ll find our ad on page18 of this month’s issue. We’ve already sold a couple of units based on the ad and we’re hoping that it continues that way.

As far as recipes are concerned, I think I’ll write in to The Bullsheet staff and offer my recipe for smoked olives and pearl onions. You take a handful of olives and thawed frozen pearl onions and marinate them in olive oil for about an hour. Then place them in a grilling basket and put them on your smoker ( a Smoke E Z works really well for this) and leave them for 2 hours. What you’ll have is the nicest flavored garnish for a martini that you’ll ever find! Now I was gonna’ suggest that you smoke them longer; but that’s not necessary and who really wants to wait anyway. So you put a smoked olive and a smoked pearl onion on a toothpick and plop it into your favorite dry martini. I guess we could call it a Smoke E Z special! It’s special alright! Enjoy.

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