friday feast: a rib tickler

“Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.” ~ Lyle Lovett


This ever happen to you?

You’re eating something healthy —  veggie stir fry, tofu salad, homemade granola — when suddenly, an innocent little voice whispers in your ear:

“baby back ribs.”

Of course you ignore it. You’re sticking to your plan. No meat for you.

You. Are. Strong.

But with your next purposeful, politically correct bite, the voice gets louder:

“Dry Rub.”

And louder:

“Sweet, Smoky, Spicy. Fall-off-the-bone tender. Lick your greasy fingers.”

You cover your ears, but


After a short pause


Man, oh, man. How can anyone resist? It’s not even a question of willpower. Human beings invented fire just to be able to cook big slabs of meat outside, and the need to tear said meat from bones with our bare teeth is positively primal.

What to do?

Toss that dainty napkin, throw away your fork. Fan those flames and revel in the smoke. Smear sauce on your face and repeat after me:

Oink . . . Grunt . . . MOO . . .


* * *

Tuesday night Baby Backs at Sweetwater Tavern, Centreville, VA


by Tony Hoagland

The waitress says
the man at Table Three
is making noises.

You’d think she would be used to grunting
when the sun goes down
at Melvin’s Rib Château,

but this one’s whispering amen
into his marinade,
getting sauce all over his Armani.

It could be
he’s an escapee
from a gated community

of tofu burgers and arugula,
having succeeded his way
into a milieu

of Pilates and Lipitor.
Now he’s speaking in tongues,
saying, Bring me

another slab of mastodon,
in Aramaic.
It is the sound of

a biblical digging-down.
A rescue mission
of smoked pig and Budweiser.

Trying to find out
if his inner philistine
still has an appetite.

via Texas Monthly, June 2008

* * *

I tried the Pulled Pork at Culpeper Cattle Company recently. Good cornbread and sweet potato fries. Oink!

It’s fascinating how barbecue means different things to different people. If you tossed that word around in Hawai’i, you’d probably be talking about beef teriyaki or Korean barbecue — marinated shortribs (kalbi) or thin slices of tender beef (bulgogi).

But for everyone else it’s basically “Southern Barbecue” with all its regional manifestations — choice of meats, cuts, and various sauces (brushed on or served on the side).

In addition to being seduced by baby back ribs now and again, I still think about the juicy, tender-as-butter brisket I had at The County Line in Austin, Texas, years ago. Even though I’ve always been partial to fish, beef like that makes you sit up and moo (they also have the best cole slaw I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant).

So what’s your pleasure? Chicken, pork or beef? Do you like a vinegar-based sauce, or a sweet tomato-y sauce? Who makes the best ribs in your neck of the woods?

See ya ’round the fire.

Memphis Rib Tips with House BBQ Sauce on the Side at the Culpeper Cattle Company.

* * *

poetryfriday180Follow the smoke signals to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Carol’s Corner to feast on all the poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week.

* * *

weekend cooking button (2)180This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their scrumptious food-related posts.


Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

63 thoughts on “friday feast: a rib tickler

  1. Oink…grunt…moo! You funny woman, you! I love barbecued meats (all of them) with a smoky, not too sweet (’cause we don’t want it to be hiding anything :-0 ) sauce. Thanks for this finger-lickin’ post, Jama!


  2. Oh, Jama…thanks so much for posting this! My birthday is this Monday, so this feels like an early present! I love, love, love me some barbecue: smoked, dry, wet – you name it. I love this poem, too – especially “whispering amen
    into his marinade!” (Good barbecue IS a religious experience, you know) Wash it all down with some Moxie, throw in some chocolate for dessert…and that’d be my final meal.

    I’m going to go over to the corner and drool now.


    1. I assume you’re going to have barbecue for your birthday? Do you make your own sauce?

      I love Tony Hoagland’s poem; I agree with him about the religious experience of barbecue and how the love/craving for it is built into our DNA. It’s part of the hunter instinct, right?

      Have a delicious, finger-lickin’ good birthday on Monday!


      1. Thanks, Jama! Sometimes I do make my own, sometimes I buy it – many of the top brands use corn syrup, though – which I refuse to accept. My favourite used to be Bullseye with Guinness – but I don’t know if they still make it.


  3. While I’m almost ashamed to admit I don’t like BBQ, I’m not afraid to shout from the rooftops that I LOVED THIS POST. For today only, you’ve made me a believer… right down to my sticky fingers.


    1. Michelle, it’s clear you haven’t had the RIGHT BBQ yet. We’re going to convert you somehow. Thanks for liking this post :).


  4. Yum! That about sums it up! I love BBQ and my town, Abilene, Texas, has a bunch of local joints that are delish…so I”m in hog heaven! My dad makes the best, too! He is somewhat of a chemist when it comes to his sauce. He buys and tastes all kinds and then tweaks his own. It’s smokey sweet perfection 🙂 Give me my baby backs!


    1. It’s cool how different parts of Texas have different BBQ specialties. Besides the baby backs, do you like brisket?


  5. Yay for BBQ! I make my own rub and my own sauce. (BBQ is serious business in the Deep South!) Today I am making banana pudding, which of course goes great after ribs. 🙂 Thank you, Jama. xo


    1. Oh, banana pudding! I’ll be right over!

      Yes, barbecue is definitely serious business. Homemade rubs and sauces are the best :). Adopt me?


  6. Nom.

    Just recently I caught the “gotta have BBQ NOW” bug. We went to Gallo’s for ribs and their trio of BBQ sliders (pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket — sweet sauce, not vinegar for us), but also for their fabulous sides — cheesy potatoes, collard greens, baked beans, corn bread. City BBQ isn’t quite as good, but they do have to-die-for hush puppies. (excuse me while I wipe up the drool!)


    1. OMG, what a mouthwatering comment. I’m drooling all over it. The sides are part of the fun for sure. I like the idea of sliders — you can enjoy a nice variety and that way, the pig, steer and chicken don’t feel slighted.


  7. Now this made my mouth water big time. I’ve been trying to eat healthier dishes since I’ve been doing three/four times of yoga a week, but i simply can’t resist the call of honey-barbeque baby back ribs, and yes with corn on the cob and a thick slab of mashed potatoes on the side. Of course it doesn’t help that husband loves anything that’s grilled! 🙂

    “but this one’s whispering amen
    into his marinade,
    getting sauce all over his Armani.”

    – i try to eat with a little more grace though on occasion if it can be helped. hahaha.


    1. Yep — we’ve all been there. Barbecue brings out the inner savage. Since you’re just about perfect and disciplined in every other way, we’ll “excuse” your baby back rib lapses. 😀


    1. We usually cook out every weekend during the summer. Yay! Len loves wielding his tongs and hearing that sizzle on the grill . . . 🙂


  8. I’m always so hungry after reading one of your posts, Jama! I wonder why that is… 😉
    And it is a good thing blog posts are calorie free or there’d be a lot more of me after I read your awesomeness!


  9. I didn’t grow up with barbecue. And for the past 30 years, I’ve been married to a vegetarian (and now the younger kid is a vegetarian.) I admit to restaurant-indulgances of steak, a few slices of London Broil, an occasional burger. But never had the barbecue bug. Maybe time to reconsider?


    1. If you’re okay with eating some meat, you must try some barbecue something sometime. Even a little BBQ chicken speaks of summer :).


  10. Jama,
    My son will be glad you have made me hungry for ribs. What a delightful poem. I could just picture the man, escaped from his life in the gated community, enjoying a forbidden treat. Quite an image — Armani and ribs.



    1. Yes, we all need to “escape” from our regular diets and indulge once in awhile. Sounds like you need to make some ribs for your son very soon. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Violet — I’m assuming your comparison is a compliment? 🙂 I enjoy watching the show and wonder how Guy can manage his weight with all that eating.


  11. I miss Korean barbecue in Hawaii! I love all kinds of ribs but lately we’re on a short rib kick — braised with black lager. But dry-rubbed chicken wings are always a huge hit! Brisket? Yes, please. Baby back ribs? Yummm.


  12. I don’t much care whether it’s beef, pork, or chicken
    As long as the sauce is worth of finger-lickin’.

    Love the poem, but those photos just about did me in. I’ve been eating an awful lot of healthy salads lately.


    1. Since you don’t eat red meat or pork on a regular basis, it makes it an extra special treat when you get to have some at a restaurant. It’s just as well from a health standpoint, though. 🙂


  13. Late, but had to comment. I notice so many mentioning Texas barbecue, but there is nothing better than Kansas City (Missouri) ribs, brisket, pulled pork, etc., and the place to go is downtown, Arthur Bryant’s. Sorry I didn’t get here sooner to see if anyone has been there. I also think I have an old recipe from my husband’s Aunt Louise, who canned it and gave it out on special occasions. Jama! Happy, happy Summer!


    1. Oh, Aunt Louise’s sauce! Those family recipes are the best :). Don’t know too much about Kansas City BBQ — again, each region has its specialties. Thanks for mentioning Arthur Bryant’s — always good to know who’s known for the best at what they do. Happy Summer to you, too, Linda!


  14. Enjoyed the poem, Jama. Barbequed chicken is probably my favorite, with all the sides! Did anyone mention fried apples? Some of Irene’s banana pudding would hit the spot. Happy Birthday, Matt!


    1. Love fried apples! Lots of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon :). Yes, we should all go over to Irene’s for banana pudding . . .


  15. dreaming of St. Louis ribs from Redbones in Davis Square, Somerville. THE best in the Northeast.

    However, we have a serious shortage of King’s Hawaiian bread which I am STILL seeking so I can make your bread pudding recipe. Target sells the rolls, but no other chain near me seems to carry the bread. 😦


    1. Sorry to hear you can’t find any sweet bread. Wonder if the rolls wouldn’t work just as well — since the bread needs to be torn up into pieces anyway. Maybe try a pound’s worth of rolls?

      Hope to try Redbones someday — thanks for mentioning it. 🙂


  16. A rib-tickling post, even for a vegetarian. We usually eat “Riblets” when the rest of the fam has a barbecue. Irene is right – Southerners are VERY serious about their BBQ (allegiances go by state) and those Texans … Well, they have their own way of doing things for sure!


  17. Your photo with the pigs and the cows is especially great, Jama. This blog just makes me smile, as does a nice rack of BBQ ribs. Mmmmm.


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