A typical competitor booth at Memphis in May.
By 6:03 am last Friday our group was airborne for the forty minute jaunt north. Within minutes of touching down, we were in a taxi heading towards Memphis' Tom Lee Park to witness the greatest spectator sport in the world. Along the banks of the Mississippi, teams from all over the globe arrive to build elaborate set-ups, smoke copious amounts of meat, and drink all of the alcohol. Eventually a team would be crowned, but by that point few cared.
The Beeve was waiting for us with specific instructions on where to find his team, "Head down the hill, take a left by the shitters...you really can't miss us."
The cast of characters on the Ubon's BBQ team is a Canterbury Tales of the Mississippi. Mr. Garry Roark is the Godfather of BBQ having been on the circuit for years. He is joined by his daughter Leslie, "The BBQ Princess", Beeve, One Legged Reggie, Double F, Beeve's daughters, and a host of others. Occasionally, they are joined by a BBQ group out of New York City named Jubon's, that the Ubon's crew has mentored for years. The Jubon's t-shirts sport a pig wearing a yarmulke with the expression "At least the salt is Kosher." Perhaps the most important member of the Ubon's team is the above Bloody Mary. Vodka, Zing Zang, the Ubon's rub and barbecue sauce, pickle juice, and a pickle spear. You can't find a better Bloody Mary. Go ahead and try.
Soon Beeve took us on a walkabout introducing us to more legends of the Memphis Barbecue Network. At each stop, Beeve engaged in some good old fashioned mental warfare, which usually just involved taking their beer. Teams begin arriving in Memphis on the Sunday before the competition. They load in double decker skyscrapers of scaffolding, oak bars, swimming pools, televisions, and even an EKG machine. A city is born within a city and it is a city of dreams.
At one point a plywood box, Gatorade jug, and PVC piping delivered the first acceptable frozen margarita in history. Explain to me this margarita machine, I asked one guy, "Well we use a disposal to grind the ice. But the ice in Memphis is real hard, and it tore up our first disposal. So Steve had to go to Home Depot yesterday and get a new one."