Today is the seventh anniversary of my Father’s passing. I have waited seven years for the full impact of his death to hit me. Assuming it would wash over me like a tidal wave, I braced myself for the sudden flood of grief and sadness.
It hasn’t come.
Instead, the initial shock and anger I felt towards the cancer that stole him has been replaced with admiration, wonder, and regret.
Admiration at the courage it must have taken to uproot his young family and move across the world. Wonder at how a humble young Austrian man of modest means could integrate – without assimilating – into Western culture. And regret that I can’t ask him everyday.
My own son is seven years old, born just six months before my Father’s death. I cannot escape the dichotomy of mourning one life withered while rejoicing the blossoming of another. The two occasions are perpetually united; 2003, the year I became a Father and lost my own.
Having survived World War II, my parents were not fleeing any iminent danger in Austria, but rather they had the wisdom to see that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Whenever I asked my Father about why he chose to leave Austria and come Canada, he would dismiss the question as ridiculous. Although I knew the text book record of World War II, I could not comprehend the reality of a raveged Europe and fractured culture. I probably still cant.
To my Dad the answer was obvious:
It was all he could do for his family.
Divided by ocean, generation, and culture, the course of our lives was and is so very different. I am a first generation Canadian, spoiled by the richness this country offers. Like many children of immigrants I carry a self imposed guilt of unearned affluence. In my teens I clashed with my parents because I felt it unfair that I should feel indebted for being born in Canada.
No-one, not my parents or siblings ever thrust this guilt upon me. Rather, It was my reaction to what I interpreted as my parents sacrifice. Since having children of my own, I now understand that parents don’t succumb to sacrifice, they are driven to provide.
Though so different, I am everyday amazed at how similar my Father and I are. And how much more like him I want to be.
It was not until his final days when I rephrased my quesion to “Was it worth it to come to Canada?” that he gave me an answer.
He simply tallied the outcomes. My parents lived comfortably. His children we all healthy, educated, in love, and prosperous. It was not easy, and he never expected it to be.
I understand now that what matters to me is not overcoming the burdern of one’s circumstance, but the resolve to fulfill one’s aspiration.
My Father’s aspiration was to protect his family and produce healthy, educated, happy children.
Thanks to him, I aspire to do the same.
Pictured above; braided challah like my Father taught me to make. This one was made by my son and I.
Tinkering, cooking, and eating are three of my favourite downtime activities. So it will come as no surprise that I often go to great lengths to combine all three.
My latest obsession is perfect slow-cooked ribs. Crafted with smoke, fire, and care.
I have been to many dedicated BBQ restaurants, and always thought there must be some secret voodoo that produces the delicate mouthwatering flavour of real Barbeque.
Cooking with fire is perhaps the oldest cooking method, and for many, the most mysterious. Most are willing to pay a little more to dine out, never considering that they could do it themselves – It doesn’t have to be this way!
Like most things, the truth of real Barbeque is of course quite simple.
In my estimation the secret to great ribs is heat, smoke, and time.
With a little knowledge, practice, willingness to fail, and the right tools, anyone can produce ribs with tender fall-off-the-bone flavour, right in their own backyard.
In my limited experience I have learned that every dish requires an appropriate measure of three key elements:
- The best ingredients you can get
- Thoughtful preparation
- Deliberate technique, equipment, and execution
When it comes to ribs, all three elements are vital. Each step contributes nothing but the building blocks of flavour that will penetrate literally to the bone.
For my purposes, I wanted a simple charcoal burning smoker that would allow for moderate cooking times (up to 6 hours) with little attending. There are plenty of commercially available smokers out there. Some cheap, some over the top expensive. You could wait for a sale and buy one, but what fun would that be?
With just a bit of searching I was able to find all the bits you see above for about $60.
What I used:
- Galvanized Trash-can
- Stainless Steel colander (to hold hardwood charcoal)
- 6 x 2″ Stainless Steel bolts and nuts (3 each to support 2 shelves inside)
- An empty can to hold hickory/mesquite wood-chips or pellets
- A sheet of thin steel and magnets for a door
- 2 x 14-16″ wire racks or perforated pizza pans
I even added at BBQ thermometer on the lid (I like to keep the heat below 240 or so).
As you can see I cut a hole in one side of the trash-can to control air ventilation and to be able to add charcoal as necessary (I have not needed to yet).
The colander is loaded with charcoal and placed at the bottom of the can. Allow the the coals to heat to ash, then place the can of wood-chips/pellets right onto the coals. Cover the door and add the ribs, put the lid on the can and walk away.
Even with the door in place, there is not enough of seal on my smoker to snuff the fire – keep an eye on the temperature and open the door if your fire needs air.
As for a rib recipe, there are a million, and I urge you to make it a million and one.
For the record, here’s mine:
- 4 x neatly trimmed pork side or back ribs, membrane removed
- Dusted liberally with dried mustard powder, garlic powder, pepper, paprika, and cayenne powder
- Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight
- When the smoker is ready, add the ribs and spray lightly with a 50/50 mixture of apple juice and vinegar (I use a squirt bottle). Repeat every 45 minutes or so for about 4.5 – 5 hours
After a few hours you should have something like this:
If you like, during the last 15 minutes or so you can add your favourite sauce and heat through.
If you made it this far, why not give it a try yourself? It’s simple, and the results are astonishing.
Now, what else can I fit in there?