THE BEETHOVEN SYNDROME
What if you wrote your greatest symphony, but couldn’t hear it because you were deaf? What if you cooked world class barbecue, but couldn’t eat it because you didn’t eat meat? Meet Varun Parti, pitmaster at the Aldie Country Store in Aldie, Virginia.
Varun, pictured above, is a devout Hindu and a strict vegetarian. He was hired as a line cook on the Royal Caribbean cruise line after earning a culinary degree. Hovering near the ship’s buffet table, he met the Desais, a Hindu couple who own six convenience stores in Virginia, and who was scoping out the vegetarian options. They helped Varun obtain a work permit, then brought him to the U.S. to man their barbecue pit in rural Loudon County.
The irony of his position is not lost on Verun, who lives with his wife and infant son over the two-story store. But he insists American barbecue and some of the gravies, sauces, and curries he learned to make in culinary school aren’t that different. Both, he notes, can include cumin, oregano, thyme, coriander, cilantro, ginger, etc. He and Sue Desai taste the rubs and sauces, but draw the line at finished ribs, pulled pork, and brisket.
“You need only to taste it, and that will seal the deal,” Varun says of his internationally slanted ‘cue.