You may not call yourself a competitor, but we all know there’s a competitive spirit inside us all. Have your children rolled their eyes, because you have asked them, for the hundredth time, to participate in a blind taste test with your latest sauce recipe? Have you scrambled to host an impromptu neighborhood gathering because things got out of hand and you ended up with four smoked chickens, three slabs of ribs and a generous serving of pulled pork? There’s no denying it… you have a competitive spirit.
During the workweek, I live a Dilbert-esque existence in a fabric covered cubicle working for a water utility in Los Angeles that supplies drinking water to one in two Californians or one in 16 Americans. It’s a busy (read stressful) job, and it requires me to be on my toes and detail oriented all the time. As the tour leader guiding a posse of project managers as we work to upgrade the IT and cyber security infrastructure that serves 300 cities, 5,000 square miles, and 19 million people, I’m the first to get the rolled-up newspaper when something goes awry.
I have come to believe that competitors, and many enthusiasts, have to be a bit ADHD and a little OCD to be successful. I’ve also recognized that over the years that in many ways, my professional discipline has contributed to my success in the barbecue world.
We can all get caught up in the winning or the rave reviews, but I regularly remind myself that barbecuing is a hobby, albeit a serious one, that I enjoy. I’ve heard people say that low and slow cooking “takes time.” But if you look closely, you may come to agree with me that barbecue actually GIVES time. Think about it: you start in the morning and end in time for supper. In between, you have had to add charcoal, check the temperature and prepare the side dishes. Let’s face it, we aren’t fooling anyone. All those tasks put together actually take only a couple of hours. But, of course, you stick around to babysit the smoker… and THAT’S how barbecuing GIVES you time.
You didn’t run your weekly errands, but you did visit with the next-door neighbor. You connected with your children when they stopped by to check the progress and find out when your barbecue would be served and how many friends they could invite to the feast. Maybe you took an hour to read a book (hopefully BBQ related) or magazine or called loved ones to explain your newest barbecue research or share your creation on Twitter and Facebook.
Next time you set up your smoker or grilling for your next cook, put out a few extra lawn chairs to encourage neighbors to stop and visit, whip up a cocktail, or find a good book. Take advantage of the time your barbecue habit is giving you. I guarantee your stress will slip away at the first whiff of smoke.
As I sit here sipping my sun-tea in a Maui beachfront rental condo and cooking on the community gas grill reconnecting with my family and making new friends, I savor the time that low and slow is giving me… and I feel grateful and thankful.
Next time you fire up the smoker, I encourage you to take a new perspective and see how our chosen sport makes time for you.