Author’s Preface: There is one article I have been putting off for a while, and for good reason I suppose. But I finally broke. I had to. I know we will lose some readership over this one, but alas, it is a brother thing, and it had to be done. Here then is the story as I know it to be. For better or for worse.
The Woolly Bugger
With the crunch of cold tires over hardened snow, I pulled up into elder brother’s driveway, where, as I come to idle, stray cats scatter into the woodwork. I turn off the engine, and admire how the sunbeams sparkle off a mountainous bank of snow courting the western edge of the drive, where elder brother’s prized motor home is embedded into the side of said bank, like the fossilized remnants of a bygone era. I like to stop by and visit the bloke from time to time, just to see what he’s up to. Such is the case today.
The car door shuts with a muffled clunk, and I begin to stroll up his driveway. Classic man toys abound: Trucks, Jeep, motorcycle, boats, but I take note of his little Weber Smokey Joe instead, like I usually do, or would have I guess, had not it been completely buried and forgotten in six months worth and several hundred pounds of snow. But I knew the approximate coordinates where I saw it last autumn, least wise I think I do, and I paid my respects to the pile of snow there instead. Sad. Very sad.
I walk in through the kitchen door, and elder brother is standing at the sink, with his long, grayish hair floundering in a rather unruly fashion, sure to excite only a local Sasquatch at best, but he is my brother, so I don’t judge him. It appears he had just woke up anyways, rebooting as it were, the human hard drive.
“I gots something to show you!” Brother belched.
He dashed down the stairs into his basement where few have ever been, or dare to go, and returns momentarily holding a little glass test tube with something dark and fuzzy in it.
“What sort of specimen is that?” I queried
“My latest creation“, brother croaked.”
“Ohhh” ,I yammered.
“”Yes”, he went on” It is a woolly bugger I just tied, guaranteed to seduce even the most selective bass!
He was quite excited, and I nodded my head in affirmation. I didn’t have the heart to tell him however, it looked like a conglomeration of something he has been plucking out of his belly button every morning in the shower before work.
“Very nice, brother”, I lamented. “And say,” I said shifting the subject, “I noticed something outside you should be aware of. Your BBQ grill is very, very unhappy. You need to dig that thing out!”
Elder brother hung his head, his bottom lip protruding in stark remorse.
“I don’t have it in me, little brother”, he said.”The art of winter grilling has not fallen to this side of the family tree.”
The room fell silent, the way rooms always do when one admits their BBQ ineptness. I should like to also say, tho unoriginal, that the silence was only broken by the sound of mating crickets, but in point of fact, any crickets around here were still frozen stiff.
“Maybe you could grill something for me???” Brother yammered in soft, mono-toned voice, thus breaking the silence.
“I could I suppose” I said, staring calmly at the woolly bugger.
“Then I could live vicariously through you”, brother croaked, “and keep my BBQ honor intact, while you gleam the glory!“
My eyebrow rose, as I scanned the intent of his face which was lightly flaked with day old mustard.
“Sounds good my hairy brother“, I belched, “What would you like me to BBQ for you? You name it, and consider it done!“
Little did I know he would take the matter most seriously of course, and like a misguided dictator of a powerful army, he would steer the troops into a position of high compromise. And so brother thoughtfully stroked his scruffy beard as an enormous smile formed across his face.
“Would you grill me a spam sandwich and write about it?” he croaked, “I just love those things!”
“I certainly will not!” I grumbled.
“But you said you would BBQ me anything!” brother declared
“Yes but, I’m only thinking of your health, not to mention the readership of POTP. They are used to a finer fare than jellied ghetto meat!“
“But you said!”
If there is anything I have learned about the heady bond of brotherhood, it is that the bond goes deeper than logic or good sense. And that you have to back your bothers play. You got to look the woolly bugger square in the face and say, I don’t get you sometimes, but what ever. Lets party.
So it was tonight, many weeks hence, under stormy skies, the kind of April showers that soon waxed to sleet and then to snow. By the time I had the coals lit, the first sloppy, white flakes of an April blizzard were hitting the ground. That is how it has been this winter; ever-challenging for the northern pit keepers to get out and BBQ. But we find a way. It took a couple of tries to get the coals lit as the packing pellet-like snow fell from the heavens, but we got it done. Anyways, whilst the coals matured, I rummaged through the bowels of my pantry and found a lowly and forgotten can of spam.
Spam for the uninitiated, is a sort of processed meat that which many folk turn their noses up, tho it does have a faithful following from eccentric individuals, like elder brother. It is also yet another thrust in food technology, conceived and manufactured here in Minnesota. It is already cooked, and it keeps for years on end. Which comes in handy as an apocalyptic meat I suppose. You can eat it cold or hot. Slice it or dice it. You can do what ever you want with it I guess. Today, in honor of elder brother, we shall slow smoke the questionable meat amid a lavish bath of hickory and cherry wood smoke. We will take this greasy, pressed-meat cube and attempt to usher it unto a better place. Wish us luck!
So we sliced the contents of the can into 4 crude squares, putting them indirect, and tossed some onions on the cast iron griddle insert to saute. The polish sausage was merely an insurance policy on the off-chance this BBQ went decidedly south. Also, a special thanks to Rolf, at Craycort Grills for setting us up with this griddle accsessory. This is the first chance we’ve had to use it, and we absolutely love it. More to come on this toy in a future post.
Ah the smell of onions frying up in some butter over a beautiful bed of coals. Aromas reminiscent of a major league ball park. The soft tap of snow flakes on the brim of my hat, and their inevitable sizzle upon the hot cast iron grate below. This was ambiance. This is why we grill outside in winter. When the onions were sweet and complete, we took them off the pit, and replaced the old enameled lid. The wood smoke soon took draft, and a blend of hickory and cherry gently curled from the damper. I slipped my hands into my smoking jacket, like pit keepers do, and considered the day.
For canned meat it didn’t smell too bad, I thought. But then wood smoke can make even a grungy woodsman three days into the same underwear smell good. This I know. Don’t ask me how. And whilst the plumes of aroma emanated from the pit, the snow flakes fell gently to the earth, slowly cloaking the dear patch of grass that just last week I wallowed like a puppy in. Winter is a fickle lady indeed. But one in which I gladly accept, on her terms, if but to grill but one humble sandwich beneath her lovely yet demanding skies.
The last order of business was to apply the cheese and toast the hoagie roll that I picked special for the occasion. Now if you’re going to grill a Spam sandwich, you might as well use Velveeta cheese. I know what you’re saying. That stuff ain’t cheese. And you’re right. But spam ain’t meat either, so who cares. It just makes sense. Plus, Velveeta is elder brothers most favorite cheese, and this sandwich, after all, is in his honor. Anyways, whence the cheese went gooey, and the roll toasted up nicely, we brought the goods inside and thus assembled the masterpiece. And on that note, it’s not a sandwich to elder brother if it doesn’t first have some mayonnaise involved. So we were sure to put some of that in there too.
Man! Grilled onions smothered in cheese, a light tang of mayonnaise, and hickory scented spam on a toasted hoagie roll. The first bite was reminiscent of a hot bologna sandwich or something. The next bite disturbingly better. It was all uphill from there. And I must admit, I ate the whole thing happily. Well, all except that which my lovely bride curiously inhaled despite her premeditated prejudices towards the canned meat. All things considered, it was pretty good for a highly processed, pressed meat sandwich. I slurped it down, go figure, like a bass to a woolly bugger. And more importantly, I had backed my brothers play. Amen.
Slow Hickory Smoked Spam Sandwich, with sauteed onions and Velveeta Cheese on a toasted Hoagie Roll. Hey, you could do worse and not have nearly so much fun.