Love and barbecue

It all began on a cold February morning in 2000.  I had a severe cold and a term paper due in twenty minutes that I had been up all night writing… As I was sitting in the computer lab adding the finishing touches and printing it out, I noticed a guy looking at me from behind a computer in the row behind me.  I could only see his eyes and glancing at me from beneath the brim of his tan baseball cap. At first I didn’t realize he was looking at me, he seemed lost in thought or concentrating deeply on his own project. I went to the ladies room to blow my nose, but when I returned to the computer lab I found him sitting at the computer next to mine, prompting a flock of butterflies in my tummy.  I partly wished he wouldn’t talk to me because the cold I was suffering from made it hard to speak clearly. But I also wanted him to say something, I had noticed him in the halls, with his hair cut long on top and trimmed short on the sides, black leather jacket and those eyes, I loved those eyes.
After a few moments of awkward silence, he said hi to me. Through the brief conversation that followed I mostly focused on trying hard not to appear nervous, and he asked me if I’d like to go out sometime. I accepted of course and gave him my phone number. I put Jason off for two months before I went out on a date with him. Looking back I wish I would have said yes the first time he’d asked, so we could have spent more time together. But I had plans! I had come to Chicago to earn my degree, and then I was headed to New York to find a job. But sometimes things just work out that way; plans are what we make while we’re waiting for life to happen.
We went on our first date in Chicago on February 25, I took the el train to school where I met him.  I was living out in the suburbs west of the city where it was cool but comfortable when I stepped onto the train.  When I stepped off the train downtown, a blast of cold lake-effect weather hit me and I realized that in my nervousness I had left my jacket at home. Under-dressed for the weather near the lakefront, he asked me if I was going to be warm enough.  Trying to play it cool, I said, I’ll be okay.  After a few minutes of walking, I realized that this wasn’t going to work so I asked him if we should take the train back to my student housing to retrieve my jacket, and then drive us back into the city with my car.  He said “I’ve waited a month for you to go out with me and there’s no way I’m letting you off that easily.” Blushing… I was prepared to shiver throughout the evening just to be with him.acookscanvas-bbq-pulled-pork4-copyright2012-2013
Since we had more than an hour until our dinner reservation, he suggested that we walk through a few shops along Michigan Avenue. I wasn’t in the mood for shopping; living on a student budget, eating lunch from the 25 and 50 cent section of Little Debbies at the Walgreens next to campus, I wasn’t exactly your usual Michigan Avenue shopper. As we walked along he grabbed my hand and pulled me into a doorway, into a clothing shop where he announced that we were here to buy a jacket. I instantly said “I don’t think so!” He said “I do. It took me what seems like forever to get you to go out with me and I’m not letting you suffer all night. Pick something out, or I will pick you out one”. I promised that I would be okay without one, but he would not listen, he picked out a long black trench-coat and handed it to me to try on. I resisted but he started putting it on me. He announced “you look great!” I took the jacket off, he grabbed the jacket and handed it to the saleswoman who had been hovering nearby. As she was ringing it up, he looked at me and said “I thought you deserved a black trench-coat like all the fashion design students wear.” I said thank you and silently scolded myself for having forgotten my jacket at home.
We strolled along the lakefront, and headed for the restaurant. Being new to Chicago, and he a local, he took me to Navy Pier where we had dinner at Joe’s Be-Bop Jazz Cafe. Southern BBQ food and live blues music. Did I mention that I was wearing a white cardigan with a white lace camisole? Well, I wasn’t expecting barbecue  We talked, we laughed, he ordered something obscure, to which I responded, “I’ll have what he’s having” to which he smirked. A few minutes later, the largest plate of bbq I had ever seen showed up at the table. Sleeves rolled up to our elbows, we ate, we listened the band, we ate some more, then when we had both had our fill, we took a walk around the pier. Afterwards, we walked back to the train station where he waited with me until my train arrived. We kissed briefly and he asked me to go out again soon. I accepted of course knowing immediately that Jason would be a part of my life. Three months later he proposed. I said yes of course, even though our families and friends thought we were crazy. Everyone has heard stories about love at first sight, but I never believed in that sort of thing until it happened to me… The following year on August 3, 2001 we were married.
We lived in Chicago for nine years and have lived in Germany for nearly four. At first, I thought love was how he made me feel; the butterflies in my stomach, sweaty palms, but after living abroad, far away from family and friends, you realize that it means a lot more. It’s just the two of us here, isolated and on our own we have gotten to know each other more than we could ever have in Chicago.
Love is a choice, and love is an action. Love is him bringing my coffee to me every morning with a bowl of cheerios and waking me by saying just above a whisper “peeeeweeeee”. Love is the joy I feel when I’m making his favorite meals from scratch, living in a foreign land where everything is just a little bit different. Love is the way he looks into my eyes and says “I’m going to love you forever, I hope that’s okay with you” after eleven years of marriage. I still think about our first date sometimes and I realize how lucky I am. We’ve been together for almost twelve years and I’ve realized, when I thought it wasn’t possible to love him any more than I do, that I love him in ways that I never thought possible. He is my husband and my best friend. I still get butterflies in my stomach when he looks at me in a certain way and I still have the trench-coat…

Pork Rub
for a 3 pound boneless pork shoulder

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Mince the garlic then add the spices and salt. Stir in the mustard. Rub this over the pork and let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge. Place the pork shoulder in a large roasting pan and roast at 300*F for about 3 – 3 1/2 hours or until it starts falling apart when you test it with a fork.

Barbecue Sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 brown sugar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside. Once pork has finished roasting remove from the pan and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Add ⅔ of the bar-b-que sauce to the juices left in the roasting pan and don’t forget those delicious bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently while the pork rests. Using two forks, pull apart the pork into bite-size shreds. Add the pulled pork into the sauce and combine. Taste and add more sauce if you think it needs it or reserve remaining bar-b-que sauce to serve with the sandwiches.
On a freshly sliced sesame bun add a good amount of pork then top with the coleslaw. Enjoy immediately.

Homemade Slaw
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 green onions, julienned
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1 small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
3 small carrots, trimmed and julienned
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl combine the first five ingredients. Set aside. In a medium bowl add the cabbage both green and red, green onions, and carrots. Toss with about ¼ cup dressing to start. Taste then add more as needed. Great with leftovers for the next day and still holds it’s crunchiness.

Sesame Seed Buns
makes 12 buns – adapted from notwithoutsalt

1 package of dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, soft
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 egg, lightly beaten (egg wash)

In the bowl or in a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, milk and honey. Let sit for 10-15 minutes at which point you should see lots of bubbles. Add flour, salt, and the egg and mix with the dough hook to combine. While the mixer is running on medium-low add the soft butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the bowl then continue to mix for 8-10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let it double, about two hours or so. Roll the dough into tight balls estimating that you will get between 12 buns. This is just a bit under ½ cup of dough per bun. Place on a parchment lined sheet tray (you may need two if you don’t want them to touch at all) then cover with plastic wrap and let double again, about 1 ½ hours. When the buns are just about doubled, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the buns with the additional egg and top with sesame seeds.

Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, until deep golden on top and bottom. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.


2 thoughts on “Love and barbecue

  1. I cook pulled pork overnight in a Big Green Egg, but I’m not one to sneer at people who do it in the oven or a lsow-cooker–you use the tools you’ve got. What I AM curious about is how Germans respond to this. Have you served it to German friends? Ken

    • Hi Ken! I’m intrigued by the Big Green Egg, I’ve read about them in food magazines. We haven’t tested this recipe yet on our German friends but we’ve had a few requests since posting the photos. We have seen barbecue on the menus of a few German restaurants but it doesn’t taste anything like American barbecue sauce. It’s overly sweet and there is no smokiness. We always smuggle bottles of Sweet Baby Rays when we return from the States.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: