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Food Porn Friday: Smoke 'em if you got 'em

A couple of smoking hot chicks, right in my back yard.

A couple of smoking hot chicks, right in my back yard.

I haven't always been a smoker.

Somehow, I made it through high school and even college without picking up the habit. But by the time I was in my late 20s, smoking started to look more seductive and sexy with each passing day. I'd view with longing the languid plumes of thick, heady smoke produced by my contemporaries and all the attending glory that came with it, and I would think: Man, what I would give to be one of them ...

Okay, you didn't honestly think I was talking about tobacco, did you? Feh! When I smoke, it's all about the meat.

Even though I'd longed for a fancy, Japanese-style ceramic kamado, I didn't cook enough at home to really justify the expense. But it seems that the universe wanted me smoking, and I'd find my way into the barbecue lifestyle mostly as a product of serendipity, as many of the greatest things in life tend to be. And "lifestyle" is certainly an appropriate descriptor, since barbecue is as much a way of life as being a professional athlete or a pothead or a jazz musician (just ask Kermit Ruffins).

I was living in a tiny hobbit hole of an apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn when my smoking life began. The place was small and mostly embarrassing -- it was half subterranean and the shower was actually in the kitchen (which made me very slightly, kinda-sorta famous). But it was also cheap,  I needed no roommates, and it had a modest but comfortable courtyard out back, underneath a gorgeous 100-year-old elm tree, that was perfect for summertime grilling sessions with friends.

I had a small Weber gas grill at the time of my smoking initiation, but anyone who knows anything about barbecue will tell you that you need live coals to ever produce something even remotely close to authentic; gas is cheap and easy, and mostly for lazy chumps. Real men use natural lump charcoal, drink whiskey and beer, and communicate through a  complex linguistic system comprised mainly of grunts.

I never thought I'd actually own a bona fide smoker until one day, out of the blue, my friend Christy, a talented food editor, put a note up on Facebook that she needed to sell her Big Green Egg. Turns out, she'd had it on her rooftop -- an illegal rooftop space, mind you -- for several years, but since some of her more obnoxious neighbors decided to drunkenly start throwing beer bottles into the street from up there, the landlords cut off all roof access. Poor Christy.  Such a beautiful smoker, and nowhere to put it.

She said she'd give me the "friend price," and I immediately jumped on her offer. After a somewhat tense and difficult process getting the damned contraption out of her apartment (it weighed easily in excess of a hundred pounds), into the trunk of a livery cab and finally to my hobbit hole courtyard, I was officially a smoker.

And oh man, what beautiful things would follow! I'd spend my days slowly smoking chickens, ducks, a leg of lamb, and a true Eastern-Carolina pork shoulder. Not that everything comes out beautiful and professional -- I've had many the tragic run-ins with over-fired charcoal and dramatic flare ups. But mostly, it's been a joy. And with each lovely piece of protein I throw on that Egg, which I dutifully brought back with me to NOLA from NYC, of course, I learn a little bit more, gather that much more experience.

To me, few things are as pure and perfect as that lovely pink smoke ring you'll find under the skin of a twelve-hour brisket. Or the subtle, earthy flavor of a succulent smoked bird. It's primal, elemental, and a whole hell of a lot of fun, once you start to learn what you're doing. And now that I have a handle on the art of smoke, I'm hooked like a fish.  Maybe a salmon. A smoked salmon!

Sorry, I'm going to cut this short and go cold smoke a salmon fillet, like the hopeless addict I've become.

And you? Do you have the itch? What do you love to toss in Ole Smokey?

Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore and a blog by the same name, has written for Gourmet, Edible Brooklyn, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Catch his weekly food column for The Advocate here.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.