If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit Memphis then you’ll know how much us Southern boys love our BBQ food.
My Dad was no exception.
My Dad, God rest his soul, swore that his Ma’s ribs were the best that he’d ever tasted. My own Mother, who was well regarded as one of the best cooks in the region, spent years attempting to emulate old Ma’s ribs at his request. She tried endless variations of methods and ingredients, formulating dozens upon dozens of dry rubs and marinades in the process. Despite the hundreds of hours that she ploughed into recreating Ma’s ribs, my Father was never sated.
Our weekly dinner of ribs would go something like this: after spending hours slaving away over the meal, my Mother would lay a huge platter of meat in the centre of the table, along with the usual BBQ accoutrements. My Father would sit at the head of the table and gaze at the pile of ribs with a look of pure hope in his eyes. It didn’t matter how many times we went through this rigmarole, he always remained hopeful that the next plate of ribs would be the one that would take him back to his sacred childhood meals.
He would always be the last to start eating. His eyes fixed on the plate before him, biting his lip slightly with a look of consternation playing across his face. Once he noticed my Mother glancing at him sharply, he’d pull out of his reverie and set to eating his meal, lest the ribs go cold.
As soon as he bit down on the first rib it was always evident that the flavour didn’t pass the test. He would let out a sigh and then continue to polish off the rest of his plate. After spending years of experimenting and what must have amounted to thousands of ribs, one day my Mother refused to cook them anymore. She was done with the disappointment, tired of dry rubbing and had spent so many hours scrubbing the BBQ clean each week that she had become quite adept at taking a grill from grimy to pristine in a very short amount of time.
Whilst my Ma spent her newly reclaimed spare time researching how to start a cleaning business, my Father ventured out into the myriad BBQ houses of the County, State and then the Country to find the ribs that he’d spent so long yearning for. I’m almost certain that he died without finding this perfect plate of food, however sometimes I wonder whether he just used this sentimental quest as an excuse to eat ribs once a week for pretty much his entire life. As I said, he always finished his plate.
Regardless of his dubious intentions, after he passed away I made it my mission to continue his quest for the perfect plate of ribs, albeit without such a calorific frequency
Part of my research before going anywhere naturally involves me checking up on a town or city’s top BBQ joints. Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q were head and shoulders above the competition (according to Trip Advisor, at least) and they did not disappoint. Despite the restaurant being rammed, my plate of baby back ribs came in good time and although they tasted good, I don’t think anything will ever beat the taste of home.
With a heart meal inside me, I was ready to head out into the country and get some walking done.