Family traditions are meaningful to me. The older I get the more important it is to preserve these annual happenings in hope that they will be passed down through generations. One of these traditions for our family is barbecued pork spare ribs on Memorial Day.
This year, I’m teaching my nephew, son-in-law, two sons and oldest grandson the recipe and methods. I’m sure they may add their special tweaks to the recipe but I’m confident the basics will remain.
I was 13 years old when my dad called me over to the grill and began teaching me. It may have been the first time my father spoke to me and treated me as an adult.
Cooking ribs in the Moore household was serious business and I felt a sense of pride that my father was entrusting me with this almost sacred responsibility. I didn’t understand it then, but from that day forward, ribs on Memorial Day were my responsibility, and has been since that moment.
I realized a few months ago that I’ve waited too long to pass the “tongs” off, so this holiday weekend was important. It represented a “changing of the guard” for our holiday tradition.
Cooking for me is an art form. There are specific techniques that create the repeated desired results. Over the years, there have been slight changes in methods and ingredients. I’m sure this next generation will do the same. I’ve added a few ingredients to my cooking pallet and have slowed the cooking process down to create a more tender result, but over the last decade, the recipe and process had reached the point, that in my mind, created the perfect slab of Moore Family barbecue spareribs.
And of course, the barbecue jokes or “dad jokes” begin. “Why should you never BBQ on your roof? The steaks are too high.”
For those of you who enjoy cooking, I barbecue ribs in three basic steps. First, I remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs and apply a rub of salt, pepper, smoke paprika and brown sugar. I then slowly smoke them with apple wood for three hours. Next, I wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and apply a little apple cider vinegar, butter and honey and place back on the grill for two hours. Then the final step is to unwrap them, put on a thick coating of sauce and put them back on the grill. Check them every fifteen minutes or so, making sure they do not overcook and dry out.
The weekend was everything I hoped for. My students took the process as serious as I hoped they would, and next year, it will be their responsibility. The ribs were a bit rushed because the teaching process set us back a bit and as such, they were not as tender as usual. Next year will be better. I’ll just sit back, watch, try to keep my mouth shut and enjoy a responsibility-free holiday for the first time since I was 13.
Ribs, of course, are not what’s most important for this holiday. Another tradition is sharing the importance of why we celebrate Memorial Day. So many have given so much and it’s important not to forget their ultimate sacrifice.
So, what are your family traditions? A Utah woman felt so strongly about her family fudge recipe that she had it engraved on her tombstone. Is there something you hold so dear that it’s important to you to continue after you’re gone? It’s never too late to begin.
And maybe it isn’t passed down to you from generations before.
Maybe it begins with you?
Oh, one last dad barbecue joke — “My dad always said he would go to his grave with his famous BBQ rib recipe. On his death bed, he had me lean in to tell me the secret ingredient.
That’s when I knew it was thyme.”
“Laughter is brightest when food is best.”
— Irish Proverb
— Gary W. Moore is a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at garywmoore.com.