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Not good ribs, but the right ribs

Not good ribs, but the right ribs
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  • Not good ribs, but the right ribs

    Post #1 - July 5th, 2019, 12:11 pm
    Post #1 - July 5th, 2019, 12:11 pm Post #1 - July 5th, 2019, 12:11 pm
    Our annual family gathering on Independence Day was always enjoyable enough. Slather on the bug spray, drink enough of my BYO bourbon to mute my screaming nieces and speculate about the Cubs' chances of finishing above .500.

    It was never about the food. There was nothing on the the table that wasn't store-bought. For a few years, at the beginning, I'd make an appetizer or side dish. But this wasn't exactly an appreciative crowd and it became clear pretty early on that it wasn't worth the effort. Focus on the socializing, the bourbon and the fireworks.

    The centerpiece of the meal was my stepfather Fred's ribs; those abominable fucking ribs. They were everything that serious BBQ fans loathe. Purchased raw and pre-seasoned from a local grocery, he'd cook them fully in the oven and finish them on the gas grill. They weren't bad, as meat goes. They just weren't good as ribs go. But whatever bizarre rub that little grocery applied to those ribs was, it certainly was distinctive. And over the decades, those ribs, which I'd have once a year, became synonymous with the 4th of July.

    Well, Fred passed away a few years ago and for all the usual reasons, I suppose, the annual gathering has never completely re-congealed. A few attempts were made but there was an inescapable sadness that I believe many in my extended, post-modern family wished to avoid. I'm not judging. I get it. Those scenarios can go either way. But I found myself missing him -- and our gatherings -- tremendously this year as the holiday approached. Thinking about his big old smile and the pride he took in presenting a huge foil pan brimming with ribs made me chuckle. And it occurred to me that the little grocery was still there and, I presumed, still doing their thing.

    We weren't exactly sure what my stepdad used to buy. My wife went to the store and spoke to one of the owners. It was sad news to him that Fred passed away but he remembered exactly what he used to buy. He hooked my wife up with a few slabs. And the next day I found myself, on July 4th, pre-heating the oven.

    I double-wrapped each of the slabs in foil and baked them at 275F for about two hours, after which they were tender but not entirely FOB. I unwrapped them and let them cool for a bit. And from there, to the grill they went. I don't have a gas grill, so I built a 2-stage fire with lump charcoal on my Weber kettle. I gave each of the slabs a momentary pass above the coals and then let them cook for a few more minutes on the indirect side, with the lid on.

    We all know the powerful emotions that food can create. And taking the first bite of those ribs delivered a potently concentrated dose of them for me, my wife and my son. In a word, it was glorious. They immediately brought us back to so many wonderful memories of our annual gatherings and of Fred, who had a personality that was larger than life. I looked at my family and I said, "these are not good ribs but they're the right ribs."

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - July 5th, 2019, 12:15 pm
    Post #2 - July 5th, 2019, 12:15 pm Post #2 - July 5th, 2019, 12:15 pm
    Beautiful story well told. And so true--taste can take us places that nothing else can.

    Have a splendid holiday weekend, ronnie_suburban.

    And thank you for sharing.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #3 - July 5th, 2019, 1:06 pm
    Post #3 - July 5th, 2019, 1:06 pm Post #3 - July 5th, 2019, 1:06 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I looked at my family and I said, "these are not good ribs but they're the right ribs."

    I've liked you since the day we met. Today, after reading this, I love you.

    Ronnie_Suburban, count me a Fan!
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - July 5th, 2019, 1:40 pm
    Post #4 - July 5th, 2019, 1:40 pm Post #4 - July 5th, 2019, 1:40 pm
    I have many, many, responses for this. Thank you for the story. I'm at our lake house in the U.P. for a mini long 4th wknd.

    I'm currently smoking 5 slabs of baby backs on a Weber Kettle.

    I'll give a few more stories of a similar fashion when I can, but for right now...

    I'm working from home today and smoking the ribs since I'm kinda stuck at my laptop - the other fam can watch the kids in the lake, and take them on the boat/ jetski etc.

    I asked the bro in law to start the fire for the kettle. He battles me every single time on smoking about process - yet for the 20 years I've known him, I've never, not even once, sampled any of his product. Anyway, I introduced this side of the fam to chimney starters a number of years ago. 3 years ago, I showed the bro in law my kettle smoke method: one side of banked coals, water pan in font of that, ribs over the pan, top vent over the meat side. He scoffed the entire time saying, "I've smoked ribs plenty, I know how to do it." So, about 9am today, he says, "I gotta run to do some work stuff around noon." I ask him if he can start the fire before he goes (while I'm opening 5 slabs of cryovacs, and skinning these things to get the rub I just threw together on em.) He agrees. About 11:30, he goes outside stating he's gonna get the fire going, and lets me know I should check it in 20 minutes or so, since he'll be gone. No biggie.

    I walk outside to the uncovered kettle spitting out smoke, no chimney to be found, (still in the garage,) a bag of kingsford next to the grill, and a half full bottle of lighter fluid next to it.

    I just let it burn uncovered for 20 minutes and threw some fresh coals on top.
    He's probably going to be the first one to say this is the first time my ribs taste a little like lighter fluid.

    Also, one thing I figured out up here. BBQ chicken means you BOIL the chicken parts, then cover them in sauce, and put them on a gas grill. Don't you DARE ask why, either. So many questions, but don't you DARE ask why.

    ETA:
    Few hours later...
    Bro in law bought a bag of frozen scrimps to go with these ribs. He asked me to thaw and marinate em. They've been sitting in the fridge all day. I got a bowl, threw some evoo in it, then mix/matched some store bought rubs, and finished it with some cheep italian salad dressing. (vacation house livin, yall - don't judge.) I grab the bag o scrimps from the freezer - just another example... yhey are precooked 26 30's. I looked at the bag and thought WTF? But then, I remembered - up here, that's how they do it. So, they buy them cooked, marinate them, then char them up on the grill. Again, I've asked why they do such things...exactly once. Now I just shut it, and roll with it.

    I mean, I asked why not put garlic POWDER into a pasty filling once. Exactly once. I got a breeze feeling all of the eyes rolling.
    Last edited by seebee on July 5th, 2019, 2:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #5 - July 5th, 2019, 1:46 pm
    Post #5 - July 5th, 2019, 1:46 pm Post #5 - July 5th, 2019, 1:46 pm
    What a great start to a very interesting thread, thanks Ron. This is not exactly an equal parallel, but it's nostalgic nonetheless...

    As a little boy in Skokie, I would routinely play down the street at my friend Sam's house. Sam was my age but the youngest of 4, thus his mother pretty much left him (and me) to our own devices, which was fine with us. I spent a ton of time there, rather than my own house with my screaming little brothers.

    I ate lunch there a lot, especially in the summer. And at least once a week, and I remember it like yesterday even though it's over 55 years ago, his mom would make us liverwurst sandwiches. Oscar Meyer braunschweiger, with mayo & iceberg lettuce, on freshly sliced Davidson's bakery bread. Cut diagonally and served on a paper plate with Pik-Nik shoestring potatoes. And a pop, maybe Fanta grape or root beer. Oh, man! I never got that at home--it was Oscar Meyer, but always bologna or pickle & pimiento loaf (remember that?).

    We'd wolf it down, then immediately jump into the backyard pool. Above ground, with the wire-mesh construction--we'd have spent the morning filling it to the top, like surface tension on a martini. No thought about 'waiting an hour'. Time was a-wasting, and we wanted to get some swimming in before the Good Humor truck came by.

    Just recalling this story makes me want to go swimming, then stop at the store for some braunschweiger! Bought some a few weeks ago--it was OK, but not nearly as impressive as back then.
  • Post #6 - July 5th, 2019, 7:34 pm
    Post #6 - July 5th, 2019, 7:34 pm Post #6 - July 5th, 2019, 7:34 pm
    HI,

    It is like my reaction to whipped cream, I want it made fresh from heavy cream.

    Yet I make an exception for Cool Whip, because it is so tied up with memories of my Oma.

    It's been many years since I bought any Cool Whip, but I don't object when there is some available to plop on a cake.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - July 8th, 2019, 8:15 am
    Post #7 - July 8th, 2019, 8:15 am Post #7 - July 8th, 2019, 8:15 am
    What a gorgeous story. As one of the lot of us in this world that doesn't know enough about ribs to know that Fred's way isn't the right way (my dad makes them like that too), I both appreciate the education in your story as well as the admiration you have for your stepfather.

    Sometimes food isn't great, but when it's made with love, you just can't help but savor it completely.

    Thanks for sharing.
    “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” ―Erma Bombeck
  • Post #8 - July 8th, 2019, 10:19 am
    Post #8 - July 8th, 2019, 10:19 am Post #8 - July 8th, 2019, 10:19 am
    beauty of a story, I got into foodwork precisely because of similar memories; to offer people a great experience to look back upon; thank you for your post, Ronnie
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #9 - July 8th, 2019, 2:40 pm
    Post #9 - July 8th, 2019, 2:40 pm Post #9 - July 8th, 2019, 2:40 pm
    I love this thread!
    So many great memories
    I also love braunsweiger sammies
    raw onion, mayo, lettuce...
    must be a childhood thing.
    We won't even talk about how I feel about chopped liver...
    (kind of a liverwurst cousin)
    "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home."
    ~James Michener
  • Post #10 - July 8th, 2019, 4:32 pm
    Post #10 - July 8th, 2019, 4:32 pm Post #10 - July 8th, 2019, 4:32 pm
    This is such a wonderful thread. All my memories of childhood are around food. One grandmother made the best fried chicken in the world, chocolate chip cookies and angel food cake. The other would have me over for lunch, and the food she served wasn't good per say, but it is a memory. She would put out a spread of overcooked spaghettini mixed with ragu sauce, vienna sausages, american cheese, crackers, little pickles, and salad that was iceberg lettuce and tomatoes with mayo as the dressing. It wasn't "good" but it was what she always served me so it is what I think of when I think of summers in Metropolis with my extended family.
  • Post #11 - July 8th, 2019, 7:18 pm
    Post #11 - July 8th, 2019, 7:18 pm Post #11 - July 8th, 2019, 7:18 pm
    Fantastic story and brings back so many of my own memories. I happen to be back on the home-front today dealing with some heavy stuff and randomly had a conversation with my own father, where he praised similarly "wrong" ribs that he had over the holiday weekend. You made me chuckle tonight - but you did a lot more as well.
  • Post #12 - July 11th, 2019, 1:24 pm
    Post #12 - July 11th, 2019, 1:24 pm Post #12 - July 11th, 2019, 1:24 pm
    You made me tear up, Ronnie, in the middle of the day. Unexpected.

    Food memories can be terribly bitter-sweet. Every Sunday afternoon my Polish grandma would make chicken and dumplings. I tried a couple of times, in her honour, didn't even come close, for all the right reasons.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #13 - July 11th, 2019, 3:57 pm
    Post #13 - July 11th, 2019, 3:57 pm Post #13 - July 11th, 2019, 3:57 pm
    Still surprised nobody's mentioned madeleines.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #14 - July 11th, 2019, 4:33 pm
    Post #14 - July 11th, 2019, 4:33 pm Post #14 - July 11th, 2019, 4:33 pm
    In my memory, my old, Jewish grandmother’s kitchen somehow always smelled of baking-powder biscuits that are almost ready to come out of the oven. She is wearing a well-floured (not a typo) housedress, known by the cognoscenti as a shmatteh, and she is making a sandwich for me that would never be considered as good food, but is a treat beyond all expectations.

    The base is a thick piece of (very) dark European rye bread and it is slathered with schmaltz (yum!) or gribenes (yum! to the oy vey!). For the topping, Bubbe is chopping white icicle radishes and yellow onions. Salt and pepper finish off the sandwich – and so do I.

    When you are younger than ten years old, there is no fear of heartburn, nor of offending anyone who comes into your airspace in the next six hours. Now that I am in my seventies, Omeprazole takes care of the heartburn and I have lost all concern for offending other people with my eating habits. Isn’t it wonderful how the older we get, the more we can act out our youth?

    Thank you, Bubbe, for making me the right food.

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