At this time of year news journalists, magazine writers, bloggers and other media folk assigned to do a “What’s New in Barbecue” article, call barbecue people around the country for the latest on what’s happening.
The emphasis is always, “What’s new?”
Any great new restaurants? Who’s hot, who’s not? New sauces and rubs? New gadgets? New hi-tech cookers? Is barbecue still booming? How about rising meat prices?
They’re only doing their job, so I resist the temptation to reply, “Barbecue is the opposite of new. Meat fires go back tens of thousands of years. What’s just as relevant about barbecue is what’s old, not new.”
Then I would go into a righteous spiel about our modern obsession with “What’s new?” as if that’s all that matters. Today’s tempocentric bias values the new and devalues old as irrelevant. “Now” is “It.” “Yesterday” and most certainly previous generations of thinkers and doers don’t count, especially if we’ve never heard of them.
Even “That’s so yesterday” has become — well so yesterday. Ironically, the magic words of marketing that grab our attention each waking hour — New, Introducing and Guaranteed — are decades old, but they still work.
That said, here’s what’s trending in barbecue today:
• Meat, fire, smoke, know-how and passion make great barbecue, guaranteed.
• Barbecue today is no longer a strictly male domain.
• Breaking news: The number of barbecue restaurants may exceed 9,000 this year.
• More than 20,000 people will compete in barbecue contests this year.
• This just in: Backyard barbecuers could exceed 60 million this summer.
• Industry sales of barbecue cookers, gadgets, charcoal, wood, seasonings and related products could increase by more than 25 percent over last year.
• New York City will try to displace Chow Town as the Barbecue Capital of the World. (That pig won’t fly.)
• More new gadgets are on the way, but many great pitmasters don’t even use a thermometer.
• Hoop dreams of inventing the breakthrough barbecue sauce of the year are stronger than ever. (Sadly for most, their pig won’t fly.)
• Barbecue costs are going up, and worth every penny.
• Dutch and Silicon Valley scientists could make laboratory meat consumer-palatable and fiscally viable this year. (Will that pig fly?)
Caveat: The above are my impressions of what’s trending. All except the first two could be totally off base.
That’s the nature of guessing the future. Speculation on what’s trending, what’s the buzz, what’s new is at best a brief antidote for the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMA) phobia.
A more lasting and satisfying antidote is to connect with your primal roots, light a fire in your barbecue grill or pit, cook something, and share it with family, friends and neighbors.
What’s cooking in your backyard?
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 KCBS’s 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 “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”