By Ed Brock
Welcome to the cutthroat world of the amateur barbecue cookout.
It's a war in which the armies camp out right next to each other, the competitors glaring at each other through a pall of spicy smoke. The engines of war, great, black stoves on wheels in which the remains of slaughtered beasts roast in perpetuity.
They call it the Metro Atlanta BBQ Championship at the Beaux Arts Barbecue Beach Party, but I call it war, a war in which the usual battle cry is "Here, taste this."
Expect no mercy. Why, if you forgot to bring your own sledgehammer with which to pummel the stakes for your borrowed funeral home tent, don't bother asking your neighbors for one.
They'll probably volunteer it before you can ask.
And if the aforementioned tent collapses due to the fact that the campground has been reduced to an utter bog after a night and morning of solid rain, don't call out for assistance. It's already there.
And don't expect your neighbor whose expensive grill was knocked over as a result of said tent collapse to just laugh that off and offer you boiled peanuts. Don't expect it, but it'll happen anyway.
Perhaps we should feel patronized by the kindness we experienced at this weekend's cookout. It was our first time, we were using borrowed equipment. Clearly we were no threat.
And yet, the same generosity seemed to pervade the entire event. Everybody helped everybody.
What an odd competition it was.
Wouldn't life be better if all our differences could be sorted out with a good cook-off? Let's see just how soft and tasty Osama bin Laden's pork ribs really are!
After all, it's difficult to muster the energy to blow things up when your belly is filled to the gizzard with meat roasted for days over sizzling hot mesquite coals.
Of course, we lost. It will be a week or two before we know just how badly, but we're winners nonetheless for having participated.
Oh, God, did I just write that? I must be suffering from some awful, cheesy sentimentality hangover.
But it's hard not to get all gooey inside when faced by the kind of genuine good-natured interaction we experienced this weekend. Thus, I feel obliged to express my thanks in print, and the thanks of Justin Reedy, my fellow chef and the actual organizer of our participation in the Beaux Arts.
And fair warning to all of our potential competitors for next year. Already I've employed a team of culinary scientists and sequestered them away in an underground lab where they will remain, sans sunlight, until they have perfected The Recipe.
And then we shall wreak havoc! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha oh, forget it. We're just going to add more ginger.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.