Start the day as you mean to go on…hungover and semi-regretting the night before. Anyone who knows us will confirm that we’re not big drinkers – we’re more water and acoustic than liquor and rock music so all this consumption is really kicking our arses. Anyone who knows us will also know that’s a big fat lie, but we’re trying to make ourselves feel better OK.
If America has one thing in abundance, it’s stores. Our retail weapon of choice today was Target, a million square feet of crap you don’t need with the odd essential cunningly hidden in there to keep you interested. As we’re entering two competition categories this week, namely brisket and the dutch oven section (no, not that kind…), we needed something quintessentially British to artistically display our Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert upon. Not easy to find when you consider this is Houston, not Leeds. We managed to find a plastic children’s tea set as they’d run out of the fine bone china ones. Not to worry, the addition of a badly crafted Union Jack table cloth will have the judges singing ‘Rule Britannia’ as they tuck into our mini caramelised offerings.
Anyone who’s been to any largescale barbecue competition will know that half the battle is just getting into the bloody place in the first place. Finding your 20ft x 20ft white marquee amongst 400 acres of white marquees is no mean feat – doing this while hungover makes it even more interesting. After 45 minutes of aimlessly trudging around we happened up a man called Harry J Miller – a man who would quickly become our spiritual guide to this maze of meat, a guiding light amongst a sea of portaloos, cowboy hats and smoke filled trailers. He’s also one of the nicest people you could wish to meet, so let’s hope he thinks the same about us at the end of this giant, smokey protein party!
Harry’s one of the event’s longest standing volunteers. 22 years of unpaid and unrivalled commitment, a raft of BBQ awards in his wake and a stetson that could easily house a small family makes him more than qualified to take on the task of chaperoning our motley crew of completion newbies. After introductions of ‘sir’, ‘mam’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Have a nice day’ it’s off to the Committee area to get our credentials checked out. We left with the strict instructions of “Remember ,this is a family event, we’ve seen y’alls YouTooob videos and we don’t want none of that shit here” ringing in our ears!
Before the thronging mass of 300,000 hungry ‘cue fans arrive on Thursday, the organisers, competitors and volunteers throw themselves an all-American party with more booze, food and music than any one person realistically needs in 5 lifetimes. Without blowing our own horns, we seem to have a bit of a celebrity status over here for this event. Anyone and everyone from Fox News, ABC News to a group of blind BBQ enthusiasts (they can smell when it’s ready apparently) have been coming to our tent asking for interviews and selfies. I’m not sure how long that’ll go on for considering Scott told the whole of America that he was wearing MY thong for good luck on live TV… let’s hope they get the British sense of humour.
Well lubricated and slightly worse for wear, we popped over to the chow hall for a concert with Country & Western legend Johnny Lee (star of the famous 80’s film The Urban Cowboy). 90 minutes of yee haa’s, hat waving and foot stomping later and you’d think we’d have had enough… not so. The atmosphere here is nothing short of amazing, Texans really are the nicest people on earth and without sound sycophantic the “have a nice day y’all” is only a tiny part of how welcoming these people really are.
Robert, the Chairman of the entire event doesnt disappoint either. A strong thick-set Texan, he’s the optimal cowboy from his strong Texan drawl to his wranglers and boots. As a Houston local his entire life, this man has seen it all, tasted it, drank it and in most cases romanced it – he’s become a firm fixture at our tent getting his feet well and truly under the table with the weird English guys “talkin’ bout Brisket all the time”.
The night ended with us back at the tent with Chuck – he’s the guy thats lent us his smoker rig and provided us with all the basics we need to do this. Cooking utensils, trays, liquor… he has something called Crema De Tequila which is easily the tastiest and smoothest way to drink tequila. Too smooth as it goes down way too easily!