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By May 2003Comments

BARBECUES HAVE BEEN BRINGING FAMILY and friends together in America’s back yards for centuries, but in an era of convenience and shortcuts, is this age-old tradition losing its flavor? Hardly, according to Cheryl and Bill Jamison, the authors of Smoke and Spice: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue.

After selling more than 600,000 copies, this revised edition of the Jamisons’ book contains one hundred new recipes and updated information on barbecuing equipment and techniques. But the Jamisons emphasize that the secret to fantastic barbecue can be summed up in one word: “smoke.” Three centuries ago barbecuing was done by digging long pits into the ground, filling them with wood that was burned down to the temperature of low roasting coals, and suspending meat over the heat, slow-roasting it for an extended period of time. This technique of slowly smoking food low over smoldering wood is the only way to achieve true barbecue perfection, the Jamisons say: “The rich smokiness you want in all barbecue should come from smoldering wood, not from fat or oil dripping on coals or hot metal. The difference is enormous, both in taste and in health risks.”

Smoke and Spice is divided into three parts. The first is “Honest-to-Goodness Barbecue,” which covers basics including the different types of smoking equipment, fuels, and tools. One chapter even explains how to barbecue with smoke indoors. The heart of the book is part two, “Smoking Slow and Low,” which includes hundreds of recipes and tips for dry rubs, marinades, and eats including beef, pork, seafood, and chicken. There’s also a chapter on smoke-scented salads, pastas, and pizzas. Part three, “Great Accomplishments From Indoors,” provides suggestions for sauces, traditional side dishes, breads, salads, drinks, and desserts.

The book also takes a look at the history of barbecue and how it has helped shape American culture. According to the authors, in 1793, after the cornerstone of the nation’s capitol was laid, the workers hosted a barbecue to celebrate; in Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara met Rhett Butler at a barbecue; and in his diary, George Washington once wrote that he attended a barbecue in Alexandria, Virginia, that lasted three days.

Interspersed throughout the book are fun facts such as:

The biggest barbecue cook-off in Texas launches the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo each February, a little ol’ event that relies on thousands of volunteers and attracts well over a million spectators.

The Taylor, Texas, International Barbecue Cook-off started in the late 1970s in response to the legislature declaring chili the official state dish.

Dallas chef Dean Fearing, from the Mansion on Turtle Creek, once said that in Texas, “Barbecue is God.” Thinking about his comment a minute, he added, “or maybe it’s just God’s work.”

While many amateur cooks may view the art of cooking with smoke as either too time-consuming or beyond their ability, Smoke and Spice shows that anyone can leave the grill and coals behind to achieve the smoky old-time flavor of traditional Southern-style barbecue. Here’s a sampling of the recipes you can expect to find:

Drunk and Dirty Tenderloin
Kansas City Sloppy Ribs
Jalapeño-Lime Marinade
Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub
Jungle Prince Scallops
Shrimp Rémoulade
Lexington Red Slaw
Candy Bar Cheesecake
South Georgia Pound Cake
Peachy Daiquiri

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