Big Mama's Series on Food and Cooking
Dedicated to the cooking men in my life
Last year I started the year off focusing on the Big Mamas in my life and how they influenced me. As I began to reflect on my life for 2022, a common theme of cooking men kept coming to my mind.
I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by some extremely good cooks in my life that have been men! As I look back to my earliest memory, my handsome father James Peterson comes to my mind. He was known for his big smile, beautiful singing voice, and his great cooking skills in the kitchen but pacifically on the grill. My father was known in Kentucky and in Tennessee for his fall off the bone tasty barbecue ribs. Daddy was the only boy with six sisters and grilling was a man’s job and a sense of pride in the Peterson family.
Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky we had a screened-in barbecue pit right in our back yard on Algonquin Parkway. I would sit out there for hours with Daddy as he smoked the meat and seasoned the sauce with a touch of beer. This process took patience. It was a process that could not be rushed. Here is a small glimpse of his grilling process. I do not have measurements or times because he always cooked with just a feeling and intuition. Either you have it or you don’t…
The first step was to get the charcoals primed to just the perfect temperature to slowly smoke the meat without over cooking. We had to stoke the coals and sprinkle water on them to keep the process going for the hours required. Then there was the prep. My mom started the prep inside by boiling water, vinegar, onions, with liquid smoke and seasonings along with the meat for just enough time to prep the pork ribs but not cooking them. Then came the rub with a variety of seasonings to whet your palate with brown sugar, spicy season salt, pepper and onion powder. As we put the rubbed ribs on the grill, we would have a big grilling brush to constantly add the boiling solution on the ribs as they smoked for hours. Then came the bottle of sauce that we doctored up with beer, lemon juice, hot sauce and worcestershire sauce. Once the ribs were about to fall off of the bone we could begin brushing the sauce on the ribs. Recounting this this memory alone is making me hungry and miss my dad. We would sit in the barbecue pit for hours and watch football or basketball while I slowly became a fan of sports and of the grilling process.
Years later my cousin came to visit my husband and I in New Jersey. I was on the balcony of our Jersey City apartment grilling. My cousin rushed in, laid down his luggage and said, “What is going on? You got your wife out here on the grill? This is a man’s job don’t worry I am coming to help”. As he rushed outside to help me I gave him a taste from the grill. He quickly went back inside and said, “My bad, I forgot who your daddy was!” Rest in Peace James Peterson.