Meat & Margaritas
Mormons aren’t famed for margarita swiggin’ I discover. Perhaps it is too waggish a drink, too Vegas, too California, too Rufus Wainwright to be associated with The Church of Jesus Christ Of The Latter Day Saints. I am spending much of my time on the back of Robin Rawhide thinking about tequila and lime. I keep imagining the crunchy, granulated ice particles, slippery with sugar and alcohol tinkling in the mouth The crystals of salt clinging to the rim of the glass, occasionally engulfed by rolling condensation and carried down the stem. The wedge of fresh lime, the straw. As we put up the tent in another campsite with no showers, I am cursing not the RVs whose ever increasing bulk displaces the need for running hot water, but the Mormons for hiding the tequila. I don’t want a fruit pie, I want a margarita.
Jamie is snot incarnate while we pack up our belongings leaving behind the orchards of the Gifford Homestead and is looking increasingly less able to direct the bike in a straight line so we head for a motel where I can scrape the grime off my face and Jamie can wipe the mucus off himself. As we near the motel I am again musing on the delights of the margarita and conclude that they will be sold within walking distance of our room. Edging off the saddle and hopping sideways in the somewhat unique way I have perfected of dismounting the motorbike, I see with excitement that the motel lobby is also a shop! A shop sells tequila and salt and margarita mix! That is what shops here sell, I know because I have seen it. A cowbell jangles as I open the door and a man with his cap on backwards greets me and asks me where I’m from while rustling through pieces of paper.
The UK huh, what you got to say about that Frank?
He calls to a grey haired man leaning on the counter to my left.
Frank tells me he lived in Wales for a while in an old bakehouse building then in the New Forest. Ilovethenewforestwhereabouts?! I ask, excited to meet a Utah man who knows the UK. I have never heard of the town he mentions and to avoid looking merely like a wannabe New Forest nerd, I ask him what he was doing there.
I was a Mormon missionary. Do you know the Book of Mormon? Would you like me to tell you about it? How long you got?
Um, five minutes?
I venture hopefully and realise that there will be no tequila based beverages here for me. Jamie wisely wanders off to buy beef jerky and I stand rooted to the spot.
What religion are ya?
I’m an atheist.
He looks at me for a second with his mouth open a bit.
Well you’ve thrown me a curve ball there.
He says and begins.
After 20 minutes, I thank Frank for my briefing and promise to visit the Mormon temple in Lingfield in Surrey and back out the door. He is a very nice man with a kind smile and wise face but he has hidden the tequila in an orchard so I am not to be converted this time. I bash in to Jamie in my haste to avoid my atheism being threatened further and he fixes me with a vast, despairing look and asks when will I learn? And I think that I probably won’t.
Fortunately there is a barbeque truck parked outside our room which I use to distract Jamie for a second from my naively trusting conversational trysts. Barbeque in the USA is not the same as barbeque in the UK. Traditionally, beef or pork was placed in a hole on the ground over a hickory ( or other) wood fire and covered over with aloe leaves then cooked for about a trillion years until it is falling off the bone. These days it is more commonly cooked in smokers or, for the environmentally conscious, gas fired ovens.
We could get a beer and eat the remaining squashed tortilla chips from the pannier and share some brisket I offer with a raised brow. Some ‘Southern Utah’s Take On Bar-b-q’ brisket for dinner and perhaps a film on the television set what what? I don’t know anything about how Utah takes it’s barbeque but I do know I like cornbread and slow smoked beef so lets have at it I think introducing myself grandly to the man who runs the van as a ‘chef from the UK doingablogandcollectingrecipesasIgo’. I query him and his assistant whether I should have pork or beef.
I like the brisket.
Says the guy
Some people don’t like the beefy texture but I think it’s the best. Ask him if he likes the brisket
He says nodding to his young helper. The helper shifts slightly, arms crossed
What do you think of the brisket?
I like the brisket
He replies. Then the matter is closed.
I’ll have the brisket then please.
Kevin started the business with his wife and makes all his barbeque meats, cornbread and barbeque sauce. I look at the writing on the van which tell me about tweeting I.D.K BBQ and ask if he has seen the film, Chef with Jon Favreau bellying about cooking intense Cuban food while his angelic son tweets about it and makes them enormously famous within minutes. Kevin shakes his head. A few people have asked him that, he says but he has never seen an R rated movie so no, he hasn’t.
I don’t know why it’s R rated, maybe all the cursing.
He adds stoically and directs Young Helper to cut a wedge of cornbread. I tried to look unperturbed by nodding dumbly. Never seen an R rated movie? This is a married man with a three year old daughter. I have never knowingly met such a person. But he is warm and friendly, well mannered and obviously popular with his customers and I feel a nagging respect for such principles even if they are religious principles of which I have none. I scamper off to the darkened motel room with my delicious box of smokey beef, a couple of photos and two recipes to tell Jamie the things I have learnt in the big wide world. He is as stunned as I am. Imagine never seeing an R rated movie I think, remembering standing slightly on tiptoes with a serious look on my face to denote ‘being 15’ that summer when all the Odeon tickets were a quid. Imagine.
The beef slathered in brown sugar and steak seasoning and then cooked for and hour and a half per pound in a smoker. Usually that means fifteen hours of smoking, if Kevin’s word is gospel, which it seems to be. It comes out meltingly tender, blackened around the edges and a slow toffee taste rising up amongst the savoury beefiness. The barbeque sauce is sweet and smokey and all wedged together in a warm piece of cornbread quite the thing for an evening in Utah watching Adam Sandler mishandling fatherhood through a haze of bad reception on a television located nearly on the ceiling. I fall asleep hugely contented.
Jamie is somehow gooier by the next day when we head to Kodachrome Basin State Park only 9 miles away. We accidentally end up camping there out of sheer laziness (and snottiness), don’t even leave the campsite to gawp at the great rock formations change colour, as the park name suggests, with the day. The sun rises higher and higher in the sky and the desert heat lights up the hard baked, coral coloured ground making it hard to see properly. Yukkas and twisted little pines grow all around us. I loosely attempt to uproot a yukka for dinner but the tiny root snaps in half and I fall on my bum in the dirt. Jamie, rearranging the bike for the eighteenth time pauses to look at me so I lick the piece of root in my hand and frown hoping to look knowledgable. Sweetish, crunchy, spitty outy. It’s true. I do not learn easily.
We pass the day sleepily listening to the heat and the family across from us hooting from time to time until the rocks begin to blush red with the evening and we have eaten too many tinned refried beans. I spend much of the day squinting at the yukkas all around us but refrain from acting, aware of a telling off from the warden. We retire to the tent early, exhausted by the dry heat and I read to Jamie from a book about motorcycling through the Americas. Wishing it felt as romantic as it sounds, we let the light fall to dark blue, switch off the head torches and lie down for another uncomfortably tenty night in the middle of nowhere.
Tomorrow, after we have wobbled off and waved goodbye to Kodachrome, we have a group of cows to narrowly avoid running over as they come thundering down the bank on to the road in front of us. We will brake suddenly, I will mash hard in to Jamie’s back having had no warning of the impending bovine doom and we will come to a halt about 2 metres in front of the trio who will look at us accusingly and I will comment that it could have meant a lot of free brisket if he hadn’t stopped. We will squint in the sun and watch the land scape flatten out in front of us and fill with kitschy shops selling keyrings and we will grow weary of keeping our eyes open. We will zip in to the stately and beautiful Bryce Canyon where swifts soar through the vast gaps between the rocks catching insects and skittery chipmunks eye us beadily from a safe distance. We will reach the end of forested road, walk to the edge of the tallest drop in the park and sit on a bench in the shadows grimacing at the crowds and thinking about margaritas. We will agree that we are totally canyonned out. Too many damn rocks. Too much red. Too many vistas. Unfortunate really because the next stop is the biggest canyon of the lot, next stop The Grand Canyon.
IDK barbeque brisket and special barbeque sauce
Brisket- as much as you need (allow for shrinkage)
Montreal steak seasoning which you can buy here or make by blending the following:
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried onion
1 1/2 teaspoons dehydrated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed.
Rub the sugar and spice mix on to the meat then place in a smoker ( you’ve got one in your garden right?) for 1.5 hours per lb of beef
Barbeque sauce (American measurements are way more sensible so buy some cup measures)
1 cup ketchup
1 cup pepsi or other cola
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 jalapeno pepper.