People are strange. Before air-conditioning, hardly anyone thought about going out into the backyard and building a fire to cook dinner on.
Instead, when temperatures rose, we either ate cold fried chicken or something that could be cooked quickly on top of the stove, so as to heat up the kitchen as little as possible.
Now Freon keeps most houses so cool we can light the oven with impunity on even the most sweltering days. Yet we elect to stand outside over a pit of coals and swat off flying insects.
It's as if we pride ourselves on being able to take the heat. Or maybe there's something deep in our psyches that tells us we don't deserve to be comfortable, or to enjoy food that we haven't earned by the sweat of our brow.
At any rate, it's practically un-American not to have set up the barbecue grill by the time the long Memorial Day weekend rolls around.
If you know people who don't grill, there's a simple way to punish them: Insist that they come to a barbecue at your house. (And don't spray the yard for mosquitoes beforehand.)
For your menu, try this recipe for pork spareribs. (Even though the spicy ribs are way too good for grill-dodgers, there's a chance they could reform your friends' thinking about barbecuing.)
Grilled pork spareribs
1 bunch mustard greens
1 cup distilled vinegar
4 pickled Louisiana peppers
2 quarts tomato sauce
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch Texas Gunpowder (granulated jalapeno)
1 ounce tequila
4 pounds pork spareribs
dry spice mix (recipe follows)
In large saucepan, place mustard greens, distilled vinegar, Louisiana peppers and 4 cups water. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes. Strain well, saving the liquid.
Place mustard green liquid in kettle with the tomato sauce, corn syrup, salt, sugar, liquid smoke, dried mustard, cayenne, Texas Gunpowder, tequila and 1 cup water. Stir well to blend. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the ribs. Peel the membrane off the back of the ribs, and lightly season with the dry spice mix. Place in pan with a tight lid, add 1/2 cup water, cover and bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour.
Ribs may be prepared to this point and refrigerated until you are ready to grill them. The sauce may also be prepared ahead and refrigerated.
When ready to grill, prepare mesquite fire and reheat barbecue sauce.
Place ribs on grill and baste with barbecue sauce. Turn several times, basting each time, until ribs are lightly charred. Heat leftover sauce and pass with ribs.
Dry spice mix
Mix 1 tablespoon granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper and 1 tablespoon salt.