Raising the Bar (BQ)
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick
Did we just elect another new Pope?” a neighbor asked me. I understand her confusion. Our back patio was enveloped in a ghostly white haze from my Big Green Egg smoker. “No, I don’t think New Hampshire is in charge of that,” I shot back. “But if you’d like a nice piece of barbecued beef brisket, I can hook you up.”
Welcome to summer at my new condo. When the heat finally arrives in the Granite State, you can count on a few givens: Friday night back-ups on I-93 North and then, when those weekend warriors finally break camp in Bartlett, Campton or Jefferson, the beer and barbecue will be all anyone wants. Well, beer anyway.
We New Hampshire folks out-chug every other state in the country when it comes to beer, with the exception of North Dakota. At 43.9 annual gallons per resident, folks in the Peace Garden State gulp two more gallons of golden amber a year than we do. So, why isn’t North Dakota called the Beer Garden State instead?
If only for bragging rights, New Hampshire constantly hits the top five of many national lifestyle surveys, including income and education and even wine consumption. Business Insider Australia recently reported that, if you don’t count the District of Columbia (and many of us would prefer not to), our state consumes more wine per capita than the other 49, beaten only by Washington DC. (Insert your own jokes here.)
Seriously? Number two for beer and wine? Welcome to the State of New Avis. The “Live Free and Try Harder” State. And that brings me to backyard cooking. I looked in vain to locate New Hampshire’s ranking for barbecue consumption. We are nowhere to be found. Not surprisingly, the highest-ranking barbecue states are well south of the famed Mason-Fitchburg line. Yes, I know those towns don’t quite touch, but you get my point. Top five are Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee.
In an effort to put our state on the BBQ map, I have decided to dedicate my life to raising the Granite State barbecue bar to a higher place. OK, I realize it’s going to be an uphill struggle. Sort of like trying to make Oklahoma City the new center of the clam chowder universe. And would a Lobsterfest knock ‘em dead in Topeka? Uh, no.
We do have a good start. Merrimack’s big Rock’n Ribfest every June was a hit right out of the chute about a decade ago. This summer also features the second annual Monadnock Up in Smoke competition in Swanzey and the 2014 Brookline Tailgate & Grilling BBQ Cook-off.
To prove my NH barbecue commitment, I am putting my current condo residence on the line. Unlike any of my other 17 neighbors, I have two outdoor cooking appliances. My aforementioned Big Green Egg smoker and a Kamado Joe propane-fired grill, plumbed directly to my home’s gas supply. Yeah, I’m hardcore. I don’t even know if two are allowed. Just like the neighbor with six cars in his driveway, I am guilty of grill overkill.
I hope I don’t get kicked out. It’s worth the risk. If I do have to go, I’m sure any condo complex in Georgia would be happy to have me and my Pope-smoking grills.Edit Module