When I was a kid, we ate out at places with actual silverware four times per year. Tops. We weren’t poor, exactly, but we also weren’t keen on extravagance. Most of the extra money went to Christmas and birthday presents for us kids. When it came time for a special meal we usually made it ourselves.
There was no foodie ‘cue craze back then, unless I completely missed it. I can’t remember adults trading dry rubs like currency, or obsessing over sauces, or excitedly debating which smoking technique was the best. There were no food bloggers fetishizing cuts of meat and favorite barbecue joints either — you cooked brisket and you did it at home.
I’m pretty sure that when my father started making barbecue, he was terrible at it. First, he didn’t have experience, and second, he was working with shoddy equipment. I remember being 6 and thinking that his brisket was tough and boring.
Then, dad got serious about his barbecue. He found a friend who was skilled at welding, and procured an old propane tank that he could convert into a pit. When I write “old propane tank,” I’m not talking about those things you exchange at Walgreen’s to keep your gas grill up and running. I’m talking about the massive vessels that would heat entire homes during winter — those 8-foot long jobs.