Cook the Books! Couple Tackles The Barbecue Bible with Over 500 Recipes!
After sharing our story with Steven recently, he thought his fans might find it entertaining, and encouraged us to put it out on his blog. We hope you enjoy!
The Barbecue Bible Journey
I’m Robert and my wife’s name is Alynne. We just celebrated finishing a two-year culinary journey around the world with Steven’s The Barbecue! Bible in which we made every recipe in the book…all 536 of them!
Fifteen years ago, I bought two cookbooks. One of them was Steven’s. At the time, I was living in Laguna Beach and doing a little grilling on my terrace. For some reason I can’t remember, I tried a handful of recipes from the other book, but my BBQ Bible remained on the shelf in pristine condition and completely unused.
When Aly and I decided to sell our home in southern California, and retire to Spain three years ago, we brought Steven’s book with us. The other one had long since been discarded. When we arrived, we discovered that we had embarked on more of an “Under the Tuscan Sun” journey than we imagined. No power and no hot water, no completed bathrooms, and no kitchen. And lots of leaks! So, we ate very simply at first and mostly did carry-out. When we finally began to cook at home, we did our old favorites and the Bible remained on a shelf.
We had just started to enjoy the travel we had planned when Covid hit and everything changed. We were locked down for six weeks. We looked at each other and said “What should we do with our time now?” Out came the BBQ Bible and we made our first recipe.
It was great. We made another. That was great, too. Then another and another. They were ALL great! We made one or two a week at first, then three or four. We stepped it up to one every night. Then we expanded to two or three recipes a night. We were hooked! When we had done somewhere around 100 recipes, I had a crazy idea. “Why not do them all?” Let’s do all 500!” At first, Aly was skeptical, then signed on with great enthusiasm.
Fortunately, from the start it occurred to me to date and rate the recipes on a scale of 1 – 5 stars. It was a spontaneous idea with no preconceived plan that we would do them all. And who would think that anyway? After all, nobody can do 500 recipes. That’s impossible! But they were all so delicious, interesting and exotic that we thought, even if we die trying, it will be the best food we have ever eaten.
Then we began to make notes in the book. It was all so good I began to give out 6-star ratings and the book is now filled with them. I was about to go to seven one night before Alynne had to stop me. If she hadn’t, I have no idea how many stars we would be up to by now. Then we began adding up how many recipes we had done.
Then Alynne made a spreadsheet to track our progress and we shifted to counting how many we had yet to do.
But as much as we have enjoyed seeing if we could do them all, it was never really about that. It was always about enjoying the great recipes. We would never have continued if they weren’t so consistently fantastic. We haven’t eaten the same food twice in nearly two years. Night after night, we say to each other, “This is the best food we’ve ever eaten.” And then we close our eyes and savor every bite.
It turns out that we enjoyed Steven’s stories from the BBQ Trail almost as much as the food itself. They were like a travel blog to us. We thought, well if we can´t go there now, we can at least sample their cuisine. And it felt in a very real sense like we had actually gone. We hadn’t tried many of these exotic foods and recipes before. We weren’t familiar with many of the different spices and flavors. We are now crazy about the Middle Eastern and Indonesian dishes that neither of us knew well at all.
And so, it all turned into a really fun and rewarding hobby during this time of lockdowns, closed restaurants and social distancing. Most importantly, we will never forget the absolutely phenomenal and mouthwatering food we have eaten because I finally dusted off Steven’s amazing grill book. And the unexpected bonus along the way was that we became pretty fair chefs ourselves, thanks to his cooking lessons.
When I realized months ago what a master chef Steven is and how great The Barbecue! Bible is, I wrote down in the front of the book two immutable and inviolate rules that have guided us from the beginning.
Rule #1 – Don’t argue with Steve!
Rule #2 – Don’t forget Rule #1!
We learned a lot of lessons along the way and here are a few of the many…
- Being in Spain, I had to get creative about how to source lots of the more exotic ingredients which couldn’t be found in supermarkets. We learned to frequent small shops in small towns with a butcher in the back. One of our favorites has become Supermercado Wei, in Puerto Nuevo de Guadiaro, where Juan, the butcher, sourced oxtail and veal sweetbreads for us.
- “The sauce should be highly seasoned!” I came to love that phrase.
- Give the meat plenty of time to marinate. Previously, I would never have routinely marinated for hours or even a day or two. The flavor that is imparted is over the top.
- But don’t marinate the fish for too long or it becomes mushy.
- Try that recipe that you ordinarily might give a pass. Some of the ones I didn’t expect to like much turned out to be true favorites. Plus, the journey to do every recipe in the book increased my confidence to tackle things I wouldn’t have before.
- Robert learned about indirect grilling which was new to him; this has now become a favorite technique. It was especially lovely with the Texas-Style Barbecued Brisket, for example! He also didn’t know about grateless grilling, and has now devised his own method using bricks on the grill to suspend the food on skewers when required.
Hopefully, you’ve smiled at reading this story of two people who opened up a special cookbook during a difficult time, and enjoyed its contents to the fullest extent, enough that we have cooked from it nearly every day for almost two years. Our BBQ Bible is now totally worn out, glued, taped, tattered and stained. A great reminder of the fascinating culinary journey we took with Mr. Raichlen as our guide.
Without a doubt, this journey is one of the greatest things we have done since moving to Spain. Thanks for a great adventure, Steven!
Robert & Alynne Douglass
P.S. Alynne gave me Planet Barbecue! for Christmas and I just said to her, “I have this crazy idea…..”
Are you going to take the Barbecue Bible 500+ challenge?