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55-year-old James Horejs, of Mentor, is a contestant in The News-Herald's Lighten Up in 2013.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Are Barbecues Diet Doomsday Disasters?

After this contest ends, life will return to normal.  A new normal, for sure, but it will still include one of my favorite seasons:  barbecue.  Barbecue is not really a "season", the time to barbecue just tends to fall in the summer when it is nice out.  I have been known to stand outside in the winter tending to the smoker for hours when a bout of cabin fever and a taste for ribs reared its ugly head.  I refuse to wait until summer when I get the urge for BBQ during other times of the year.

The problem with barbecue is that it typically begins with huge amounts of fatty meat.  Add rubs that are high in sodium and slather on sweet, sticky sauce and you have, at best, a sabotaged diet.  At worst, a heart attack waiting to happen.

No doubt, barbecue is one of my biggest passions.  I am proud to be a Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge.  I have not only judged numerous sanctioned BBQ events, I have been fortunate enough to be a guest cook with a team that has won Grand Championships, so I have learned from the best.  Many of my Facebook friends can be seen on BBQ Pitmasters.  I am currently fabricating a custom smoker and hope to compete someday on my own.

Enough about what's down the road.

This year, barbecuing will be done with a mind chock-full of lessons learned from Lighten Up.  I need to use the knowledge from
this contest applied to ridiculous parties where I smoke 100 pounds of meat.

I wrote earlier that I hope to compete one day in a sanctioned BBQ contest.  To prepare for that, I throw a few barbecues throughout the summer and "practice" on my guests.  In fact, w
e are throwing our first BBQ event this upcoming Fourth of July weekend for 30 or 40 of my dear girlfriend's co-workers, which has become an annual tradition.

A sanctioned KCBS BBQ competition consists of four categories: chicken, ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket.  I make all of these meats at my events, plus a significant amount of side dishes.  These side dishes are usually anything that can be wrapped with bacon.  And I make a mean smoked mac-n-cheese, too.

Although my guests rave about such a menu, one thing to do to make this event a little healthier is to add other food options like smoked salmon and smoked turkey.  Salads, coleslaw, and baked tortilla, whole wheat pita, or flax seed chips with healthy, fresh salsa are suitable replacements for the numerous bacon-wrapped foods.  I will also cut back on portions, go lighter on the salt and sauce, and probably not drink beer all day and night while tending to food that sometimes takes 12 to 16 hours to cook.  Drinking water is obviously a better beverage option.

I will never quit eating BBQ.  You will have to pry that rib bone out of my cold, lifeless hand first.  But I will be a little more health-conscious about it.  And besides, it's only a few times a year.


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