Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cookbook: Memphis Blues Barbecue House by George Siu and Park Heffelfinger

When you think of Vancouver, just about the last thing that comes to mind is classic Southern barbecue. And vice versa. Two things that, quite rightly, have no business being mentioned together. Maybe that’s exactly why the barbecue cookbook by the proprietors of what is probably Canada’s most successful barbecue restaurant is really quite good: the great barbecue they make at their award-winning restaurant was hard won. They have no family memories of this type of cuisine, no recipes from Aunt Delia to fall back on. On a trip to Memphis, they tried barbecue, fell in love then decided to import their new passion to Vancouver.

I’ve been to their restaurants on several occasions and though, strictly speaking, it’s not my kind of food, I still managed to choke a fair bit of it down. It’s wonderful. And it transports. Vancouver is stuffed with restaurants doing all sorts of Pan Asian and West Coast natural and Mediterranean types of food. But barbecue -- real barbecue? Not so much.

In bringing barbecue to Vancouver George Siu and Park Heffelfinger had to learn everything about the cuisine from the ground up. This translates to their book, Memphis Blues Barbecue House: Bringin’ Southern BBQ Home (Whitecap Books) as well. Everything here is clear and lucid and amazingly easy to follow. The type is large, the writing clear, the ingredients lists mostly surprisingly short. They break down cuts of meat, types of barbecue and even discuss “home barbecue rigs,” an important section if you’re going to try this at home. Not feeling brave enough to give up your gas barbecue? There’s still lots here for you: sauces and sides, salads and cornbread and even dessert. Vegetarians might want to give the book -- and the restaurant -- a pass, though. If Southern barbecue is anything, it’s a celebration of meat: even when administered by Canadians on a mission.



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