Vic Clevenger

Speaker, Freelance Writer, Pitmaster

Tag: Blogs

THANKSGIVING

My grandson, Caspian, trying on the medal from WFC

It’s the time of year when the holiday season gets in full swing. It kinda began with Halloween but now Thanksgiving is here. Black Friday sales have begun, in some cases, they started last week (can they really be called Black Friday Sales when they begin a week before Black Friday?) But people will go get those items and I really can’t blame them because a sale is a sale afterall. Just stop calling them Black Friday sales is all I’m saying. The only major shopping that should be done prior to Thanksgiving is for the big family feast taking place this week.

This week for me will be a little different than Thanksgivings in the past in that my family won’t be together. Now we’ve done our own Thanksgivings before in that we have moved from home years ago. But I’ll never forget those times growing up. For my early years it was one of those times I looked forward to. We would travel to my grandparents in Ohio which was only a few hours away but for a kid seemed like it took forever. When we got there and the rest of the family began to arrive it was the traditional Thanksgiving picture you’ve seen in the movies or on television. Big turkey in the middle of the long table surrounded by every side dish you could imagine. Green beans, potato salad, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes (if you didn’t get your starches it wasn’t for the lack of opportunity), rolls and then the desserts. Mom’s carrot cake was always a hit and of course there was always a pumpkin pie which I still use as just a vehicle for my whipped topping. Oh and to make the picture complete, that was the adults table. We kids were all gathered around the little table in the kitchen, affectionately known that time of year as, “the Kid’s Table.”

As the years passed by we have all grown up, moved away and began our own family traditions all the while holding those memories dear to us. I’ve shared a story or two with my kids through the years hoping to give them a glimpse into my youth and the importance of being with family. Thankful for the memories, which in many cases is all we have left of our grandparents, aunts, uncles and some cousins. My mom loved this time of year because in her list of loves, cooking ranked right up there (behind the Lord and family). If we were sick there was soup. If we were depressed, cake. If we were happy, pot-roast (that was also Sunday after church). But Thanksgiving, well now, it was time to really get the cooking done. Early to rise anyway, she found it easy to toss the turkey in then begin the rest of the menu. WOW, I miss those days and I miss her but I’m Thankful for what I have left, many of her recipes and those memories.

Which brings me to this week, which two paragraphs ago I introduced. Many of you know I have two daughters which truly are my pride and joy. My oldest just gave birth to my first grandchild (some of you may or may not know that part) which I think the Sun rises and sets on him. He is my little buddy already and I can’t wait to teach him all my redneck ways. However, this week his parents are up north (with him) to visit my wife’s parents, which is to the delight of the great-grandparents. So Marcia, my wife, has decided she needs to fly up to Kentucky to be with the grandson on this Thanksgiving Day, leaving me and Rebecca, my youngest daughter, home alone. See, I told you this year it was different. Don’t mistake this as me being upset or sorry because I’m missing out for this could not be further from the reality. I’m actually thankful for this.

I’m Thankful my daughter can show her husband and son where her parents grew up. Although he is only 2months old (the grandson not the son in law), the family will all still be together even if it is just the connection of them being in the hills I love so much. I’m Thankful my wife and I can afford to just buy a plane ticket so she can hold her grandson on Thanksgiving Day. I’m Thankful my youngest daughter is excited to cook our Thanksgiving feast, although our turkey is coming from the deli and will be in the form of sandwiches, there will still be pumpkin pie. I am Thankful both my daughters have found good, God-fearing boys (I think I’m spending Thanksgiving with the youngest one’s boyfriend). I’m Thankful we, my wife and I, have a place where the kids can call home and return to anytime they need. I’m Thankful for all the memories I have of my family, those I see all the time, those I don’t and especially those memories of those who are gone. My list of Thankfulness could go on and on but you’re getting the idea. Although this Thanksgiving is going to be a bit different, it doesn’t lessen my list of Thankfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

BBQ Equals Pals

Pals #ThinVic and steak World Champion, Eric Hodson of Boars Night Out BBQ Team

I love westerns. Everything about them and what they represent – good guys always win, being outside, and loyalty. One of my favorite (non John Wayne movies of course) is the classic, Young Guns. This movie has it all, gun fights, adventure and pals. Billy the Kid, in the movie, used this word “pals” a lot to describe his band of Regulators, especially those closest to him. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) someone carves pals on his headstone. In real life, however, Pals is carved right into the marble and there’s actually a cool story behind it but I’ll leave that to you to research.

Who needs pants when you are taming the west?

While watching this movie again for the countless time, I began to notice some similarities with this and the BBQ life especially when it comes to pals. They came from different backgrounds and regions but yet these band of brothers were linked by a common goal and mutual desires. As I look around at the pals I’ve made in BBQ, we’re the same. Classically trained chef’s alongside backyard cooks all discussing the best way to smoke a perfect brisket or grill a pineapple upside down cake. The best part of this is these “pals” treat each other as equals because they know they each can help the other become a better cook.

Out on the BBQ circuit we make a lot of casual friends and acquaintances but pals ratchets up friends another notch or two. These casual friends/acquaintances are all over our social media friends list and when we’re at the latest cook-off we’re cordial, even inviting them in to our site for a drink. But “pals” are those whom you can call when you’re stuck in the mud or just want to hang out. Most immediate example of this is the Mini Pot Mafia started by fellow Team B & B Ambassadors Mark Lambert, Eric Hodson, Allen Smith, & Malcolm Reed. There’s no trophies on the line, no major cash prize just a bunch of pals who’ve invited a bunch of other pals to hang out and cook in a 1-quart pot.  Why? I think there’s two reasons for this. First, they just enjoy hanging out with each other. They’re “pals” who can call on each other when the chips are down but more than just that, they genuinely like one another.

The second reason and another attribute of being a pal is they aren’t afraid to learn something from some each other. Hanging around with these guys I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “What do you think if we tried this? You think it’d work?” What impresses me the most is these World Champion Competitors aren’t afraid to try new things and teach it to their pals. I sat listening to Mark at Memphis in May talk about doing some sort of Argentinian style of cooking and the next thing I know, at the American Royal he is setting up this contraption to try a new way. I say this all the time (and this won’t be the last time you read this from me), “A day without learning something is a wasted day.” Successful people know this and it’s displayed in how they live.

Pals love seeing their pals succeed and aren’t intimidated by it. When I was in Memphis in May this year, the team I was cooking with, Boars Night Out, got a top three call. In a nutshell, this means the top three in each category must give one more presentation for the judges. This can be nerve racking because the judges judge everything not just the food. They look at your site, the presentation (eat with your eyes remember) and the actual verbal presentation long before they take a bite of your food offering. When this happened for BNO, teams from everywhere came to see if there was anything we needed. In front of our site was a mud pit (it’s called Memphis in Mud for a reason) but while we were concentrating on the table side presentation, someone brought all of their sod to cover the mud. I still don’t know which team it was, but this is just what pals do.

This is what BBQ means to me, relationships, friends, partners, or just pals. Better still, to me BBQ is family.

Summer is a time for Adventure

Summer has…well what has it done? Spring has sprung. Autumn falls upon us. Winter blows in with its cool breeze. But what do we say about Summer? Well anyway, Summer has begun and with it life continues on its blaze of filled calendars. Trips are planned and shows are being booked all the time. I have something going on almost every month for the rest of the year. Then we try to discuss when to take a vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle. The Keys perhaps or the Mountains will be in our future.

But this time of year takes me back to a time with life was less chaotic and revolved around what fun I could get into today. Once the day was over thoughts of what to do tomorrow turned into dreams as I would drift off to sleep. Summer, for a child was what made life worth living long before we had to think about making a living. When asked by adults, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” was answered with well thought of responses. I’m going to be a cowboy, army man or maybe a pirate would be on the list depending on the day and what fun thing we were doing.

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, my brother and I would run the hills behind our house looking for whatever we could find. Somedays it was Bigfoot or a monster living in the woods but it didn’t matter because each day was a brand new adventure. We would joke, if someone escaped the nearby prison and chose to hide out in those woods, there wasn’t a person in the county who knew those paths better than us. Some were made by animals on their trek to find food while others were blazed by us searching for our daily quest.

Summer left us with no snow to shovel where we would earn a couple dollars shoveling snow off driveways. But never fear when found our money maker when we discovered several blackberry patches. If you’ve never gone to the woods and picked wild blackberries, then you really have had now adventures in your life. My brother and I would trek off with 5 gallon buckets in hand and fill them every time we went out. Well, we would have filled them every time except we ate a lot of them. Yes, without washing them. Then we put them in jars or containers to sell to the neighbors. No, we didn’t have permits but back in those days people encouraged kids to work. Summers would smell of blackberry cobbler in our neighborhood.

As summer is upon us I miss those adventures of youth. A time when kids played, explored and dreamed of adventure. I know I’m about 4 days into Summer but starting today, I think I’ll make Summer an Adventure again.

Dreams, Goals and Aspirations

Dreams, Goals and Aspirations come with their challenges. Much like pioneers had when trying to cross the Grand Canyon

Dean Martin is credited to have said something to the affect, “Dreams are for lazy people. I don’t have time to dream, I need to get out and work to achieve what I want.” However, as we look to what we want out of a career, hobby and live in general, we’ll use the terms in the title almost like synonyms. Perhaps they are, but regardless of that, if you want to achieve whatever you call it, you’re going to have to get out there and work for it. But don’t be surprised if while chasing one, you find yourself following the path toward another, sometimes leaving the other behind.

One glaring example of this is race car driver, Danica Patrick. I say race car driver because it’s how most of us recognize her. This year though she walked away from it all to pursue other aspirations which in my opinion wouldn’t have been possible without the race cars. She spent many years pursuing this dream, which will undoubtedly land her in racing hall of fames for a number of reasons. Only woman to lead an Indy 500, get the pole at the Daytona 500, win an Indy race just to name a couple. Because of this she broke stereotypes and was an inspiration for many young girls many of whom may not even follow racing but they know her.

Some may remember her from her early racing days as the GoDaddy girl. As beautiful and fit as she was (and still is) it was her charisma which projected her from the TV screen into our living rooms leading us to GoDaddy to build our websites. It was probably a part of her contractual agreement as they sponsored a big chunk of her racing but it didn’t matter, they saw her modeling value. I’ll venture to say it became a dream of hers to be a world class model as well as an athlete which furthered the brand of “Danica.” She popped up everywhere as a model who knew what she wanted and got it but it’s changed somewhat now. We still see model Danica but not as much and not the same way.

If you’re like me, you follow her on social media and have noticed the transformation of her dreams. This year with the running of the two biggest races, the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, she said good-bye to her racing dream. I had just mentioned we don’t see her modeling in the same way either, perhaps she’s even winding that down to pursue her new dreams, goals and aspirations. She is now business mogul Danica Patrick. Her Instagram is full of her exercising every single day when I struggle to make it to the gym three days a week. As I watched her through Instagram she began to post her balancing handstand challenges, which now represents the struggles of achieving a life balance. As she worked and worked to achieve this goal, I noticed there began to be less and less racetrack talk in her posts. Looking back on this, it’s as clear as day but in the moment I didn’t realize her dreams, goals and aspirations where changing. She may not have even noticed it but it has taught me a huge lesson. A lesson we all know and have espoused ourselves but may not have even caught on until now. The lesson? Things change.

Pretty simple, huh? Danica is that phrase, in a positive and inspirational way. She has shown us not only do things change, but Dreams, Goals and Aspirations can be those things which change. Even modifications to the original dreams, goals and aspirations is still a change. What I would like to do over the next few weeks is to examine together why they change. The answers can be somewhat simple while others may be a little more complicated (but rest assured not too complicated, remember who’s writing this). Regardless of what we find out I hope its insightful and helpful as your Dreams, Goals and Aspirations continue to evolve. So stay tuned to the Monday Morning Blogs as we discover more together.

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