By Tom Lawrence
Klug stood in the opening of his cave, and stared at the stack of smoldering wood he had covered with muddy dirt just before sundown last night. There were still wisps of blue smoke coming from a hole near the top of the stack. Klug was comfortable with the aroma of burning wood. Fire had been the only thing that made it possible to live here in the hills of what would one day be called Tennessee.
There was something strange about the smell of this smoke, something more acrid and bitter. Klug shrugged it off, figuring it was probably caused by something in the dirt. Later that day, he kicked some of the dirt off the pile, and was surprised to find black hunks of what appeared to be wood ashes. He picked up a piece and found that while it looked like wood, even had the same grain as wood, it was almost half the weight of wood.
He gathered a pile of the new material and put it near his fire pit in the cave. He wasn’t sure why he saved it, but he did. Klug was a member of a small band whose members had been following the retreating ice caps for thousands of years. They were frightened by the loss of ice, and tried to stay as close to the caps as possible. They understood this icy environment, and feared global warming, much like their ancestors would 12,000 years later.
Klug and his mate had lived in the family cave, just as his forefathers before him. In the short summer months they gathered edible plants, and all winter they lived on meat killed by Klug and his buddies. A couple of days before, Klug had managed to kill a large hairy boar, and his family had been sticking pieces on sticks and holding them in the fire. The burned meat was bitter and tough, but it kept starvation at bay.
As the winter sun sank below the river bluffs, Klug began to set up his night time cooking fire. He piled a small bunch of twigs and moss, took a burning ember from the main fire, and lit the little pile. He tossed on twigs and small sticks until the flames were flickering off the cave walls. He looked at the fire and thought, “Oh what the hell,” and tossed all of the charred wood he had salvaged onto the flame. A strange thing happened. Rather than burning away like wood, the stuff got very hot, and soon Klug had a glowing bed of coals in his fire ring. He noticed that the strange stuff burned much hotter than a bed of wood coals, but he went over to the boar’s carcass anyway, and sliced off a large section of ribs.
The fire was much too hot to hold the slab of ribs with a stick, so Klug piled his firestones a little higher and balanced the rib rack above the fire. Soon the cave was filled with the aroma of grilling pork. Klug carefully turned the ribs when the first side was done. When both sides were ready, he removed the slab and cut off a single rib and took a small bite.
Not only did Klug’s life change that day autumn day, but likewise, would the entire course of mankind. Klug and his little family soon stopped chasing the receding ice cap, and decided to plant some grass seeds down by the creek. Soon their whole standard of living began to improve, and all of it could be attributed to the magical properties of what is now a Memphis tradition–and hands down, the best in the world–barbecued pork ribs.
This piece first appeared on www.tomlawrenceblog.com
Fire image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to jknewspoint.com
The illustration is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.pixaby.com
Barbequed ribs image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org