Sarah Kenney on family traditions, tri-tip barbecues and an enchanting trip to Table Rocks Lake in So. Missouri.
By Sarah Kenney
Summertime. Fourth of July. Barbecues. Traditions. Sigh… No one writes out traditions for families. Not really. They just sort of happen. Someone in the family suggests something fun or tasty. Then, it just keeps getting requested year after year. Voilà, traditions are born.
That’s the way it is in our family.
“I sure hope Tim barbecues Tri-tips for us again this year.” Patrick commented wistfully. Uncle Tim has certainly laid down what has become an anticipated tradition…barbecue tri-tips. We didn’t even need to ask Uncle Tim “pretty please”. We just peeked in the fridge and saw the big butcher paper wrapped parcels. “Oh yes, indeedy!”
Do you remember the saying “Over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!” That would entirely sum up this enchanting drive to Table Rocks Lake in So. Missouri.
My husband played down on these lakes and myriad of tiny coves when he was a little boy, spending weekend after weekend during the summertime jumping and splashing with his siblings and six cousins.
The funny chickens are always there to greet us. They trot right around our feet. The assortment of lake dogs weave in and out of the chickens and then run off to jump into the lake water to cool off. They come bounding back to us and then shake their shaggy coats spraying us with a layer of ickiness.
Who says roosters only crow in the morning? This rooster was on a cock-a-doodle-do patrol throughout the day! It was a wonderful sound to hear, actually, because it was so out of the ordinary sounds of our life in the huge city of Houston, Texas.
Trees! Woods! Smells of dewy forests, sounds of crunching leaves, and the cacophony of chirping birds entertain our walks along the long windy road leading from the main road to the cabin. The cabin is perched up the steep side of a tall hill and nestled inside huge overhanging trees. When sitting on the upper deck, the affect is one of peering out from a tree house on top of a sea of forest.
Swishing and sliding along the lake water…bumping and flopping to and fro on what is affectionately dubbed “Big Mable”; you can imagine how hungry appetites are worked up in anticipation of Uncle Tim’s evening barbecue menu. Do you see that man on his belly with his toes up in the air hanging on for dear life? Yep, that is our bonafide grillmeister…Uncle Tim!
Patrick and I decided we were going to go on an all out de-tox from our electronic friends. No computers, no internet, no blogging, no computer gaming. We woke up early each morning and went for a long walk in the woods. He would jump right into the lake to cool down afterwards but “hey” I’m not that earthy!
Anyone who drives down this long twisty path to get to the cabin will pass this tiny little relic of a cabin from bygone days. It’s been sitting there as long as I can remember and anyone else can remember for that matter.
Look at those handmade nails used to attach that iron forged hinge. The way the logs are stacked demonstrates just how log cabins were made long ago. What stories this little cabin in the woods could tell.
In anticipation of the evening boat ride to gather with hundreds of other boaters to see the annual fireworks display, we make another run up to “Ha-Bob’s” to load up on more food supplies for our nightly barbecue. We snicker every time we come up to “Ha-Bob’s”. Everyone giggles and has fun saying it as purt’in neerhillbilleh as we can muster! Ha-Bob’s!!
The fireworks were amazing. The hundreds of boats bobbing up and down in the water with their little lights twinkling is one of the most wonderful sights. For that evening it feels that all of America has come together as one big family. The air cools down and voices are hushed. The fireworks light up the night sky and for that one night, everyone is thinking only of beauty and appreciation for the lives that we lead and the freedoms that we enjoy.
And then there’s the drive back to Texas, up and over the hills of Arkansas. Beautiful barns like these are not that common and when we see one we stare in appreciation and admiration for the people that work the land.
Fields were full of hail bales. When we could get a glimpse inside some of the barns, you could see hay bales stored inside, ready for the upcoming winter months.
Traditions. Barbecues. Fireworks. Tri-Tips. Family. Sigh…
- 2½ pounds tri-tip beef (leave fat layer on)
- Pappy's dry rub (Snippets Notes: or Grub Rub is a good dry rub as well)
- Hickory chips (soaked for 30 minutes before bbq)
- Heavily coat tri-tip with Pappy's dry rub , wrap in butcher paper and allow to season/marinate in fridge for at least several hours (overnight if possible).
- Take 3-4 hand fulls of Hickory Chips and soak in water for at least 30 minutes.
- If using charcoal grill, make a fire on one side of grill, leaving other half of grill without fire under it. (Uncle Tim prefers to use lump real wood charcoal as opposed to brique charcoal for better wood flavor).
- Allow fire to get well established and hot. If using gas grill heat grill on high to get hot.
- Place tri-tip on fire side of grill, or directly over gas flame, fat side down and sear 5 -10 minutes depending upon heat of fire (don't char, but sear to put on crust).
- Lightly sear the meat side also (2-3 minutes).
- Move tri-tip meat side down to side of grill without fire, or turn off one burner and place tri-tip on cold burner, leaving other burner on.
- Sprinkle soaked hickory chips directly on fire, (or in smoke box if using gas grill).
- Close grill, allowing some air flow through vents if using charcoal to allow fire to burn.
- Chips should make heavy smoke (more smoke the better).
- Leave meat in covered grill smoking for 1 hour. (After 30 minutes you may want to open charcoal grill to allow fire to breathe or add wood chips).
- Remove tri-tip, allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Carve starting at tip and go across grain in ½" - ¾" slices.
Sarah is an adventurous food photographer and writer who has moved six times with her family from the U.S. to Wales, Japan and back. They are affectionately known as "The Rolling Stones". She is a passionate chef who thinks that their experiences living in Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Missouri, Kansas, and now Texas culminate in shared meals and tales around the table as her family experiences each regions offerings of cuisine and culture. Texas is her current stop and good food and good times are a passion of this southern state. She writes about her foodie adventures in her blog "Snippets of Thyme".