Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: the Barbecue America cookbook



the Barbecue America cookbook

By: Rick Browne and Jack Bettridge

Publisher: The Lyons Press

216 pages

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book. It seemed to have been striving for a ‘folksy’ appeal with the cover design and it comes off a bit forced. I was afraid that I was in for a book that covered the basics, which might be a bit condescending and was designed for the occasional backyard cook. I was pleased to realize that I was completely wrong.

Although I’m still not a fan of the lettering on the cover coupled with the picture, this book appears folksy because it is folksy. Clearly not a gimmick, the authors are here to proselytize the good news of BBQ and we are the better for it. To continue the religious analogy, like many converts to a new cause, the authors are happy to stand on the literary street corner and call out to the faithful. Neither of the authors were particular fans of BBQ until they approached middle age.

Unlike most cookbooks, this soft cover, 216 page book doubles as an introduction to the world of competitive BBQ. Interspersed through the recipes are commentaries, stories and brief histories. The authors decided to use the occasion of the book to go on a ‘low and slow’ sojourn, hitting the BBQ mecca’s and the major festivals.

The recipes in the book are comprehensive and creative, hitting the traditions of the various BBQ regions. As an example, the book includes a section on mutton which is a BBQ mainstay in Kentucky. Similarly, there is a section on the pacific north west and a variety of fish recipes. You get what you paid for here, all the standards are covered with sections on rubs, sauces, desserts, various meats and more.

I found the book delightful. I wish I had read it when I was just getting interested in competitive BBQ. The behind the scenes glimpses are reminiscent of George Plimpton and Stephan Fatsis (author of the amazing ‘Word Freak’). For someone that is intrigued by the representation of competitive BBQ found on Food Network, this is a great cookbook and an excellent introduction to the competition circuit.

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