Well never know what our ancestors ate at the first barbecue: fish, fowl or four-legged animal?
By ARDIE A. DAVIS
If the ubiquitous engraving of Indians smoking fish on a green sapling grate over flaming smoky logs is our best documentation, smoked fish was devoured at the first barbecue.
Then again, we may someday discover old cave wall drawings of skewered beasts roasting over hot coals. For now, Ill wager it was fish, but the jury is still out.
Although smoked fish shacks arent as plentiful today as in the past, many can still be found across America. Paul Kirk and I were introduced recently to the James Beard Award winning Calumet Fisheries smoke shack in Chicago, thanks to our barbecue buddy and Chicago barbecue host, Craig Meathead Goldwyn.
While some of our friends in the barbecue community think smoked fish isnt real barbecue, we beg to differ. Smoked fish is one of the earliest barbecue delicacies known to humankind.
On the day of our visit, Calumet was sold out of eel. Not a problem. The smoked sable (black cod), white fish, peppered salmon and shrimp we ate were tender, kissed with oak smoke, and delicious even after we had pigged out on fantastic barbecue at Smoque, Honey One and Lillies Q.
Calumet doesnt ship its product and they dont offer dine-in space. On cold days you can dine in your car. On warmer days, people dine outside like tailgaters. Locals and Chow Towners also take it home for more comfortable dining. Calumet has been in the fish smoking business since 1948. Stop by for a snack or a meal on your next visit to Chicago.
Meanwhile, here in Chow Town, you can satisfy your hunger for smoked fish with some take-home smoked salmon filet, tomato-basil filet, or peppered salmon filet at Fritzs, Kansas Citys Oldest Smokehouse, established in 1927.
Several Chow Town barbecue joints offer smoked or grilled fish. Enjoy dine-in Smoked Salmon Dip, Grilled Salmon Spinach Salad, Grilled Salmon, Ahi Tuna and Trout at Jack Stack. Or go to Jon Russells for Jammin Salmon smoked salmon with chipotle aioli and Cajun coleslaw.
We landlocked Chow Towners can get excellent fresh fish and seafood at local supermarkets and meat markets. Get some and treat friends and family to homestyle smoked or grilled fish. For low cost/high value easy-to-follow creative recipes I highly recommend two books by Chow Towns barbecue queens Karen Adler and Judith Fertig: 25 Essentials: Techniques for Grilling Fish and 25 Essentials: Techniques for Planking.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Craig Meathead Goldwyn, for a splendid barbecue tour of Chicago. Meatheads website, amazingribs.com, is the worlds go-to virtual place for a barbecue treasure house of reliable information and recipes.
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBSs Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is Americas Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.