19:30 CT. It’s still light out. It had all the makings of a perfect evening. Six hours of Diners, Drive-I-, uh, six hours of Bob’s Burgers or Fassbinder queued up after a long day of work, a fresh haircut from my favorite barbershop, that I’d driven to on the scooter I’d temporarily traded my car for, and absolutely nothing planned. All it took was fifteen minutes for that dream to fade, and now my hotel room smells like meat and the ravenous scent of a champion. But let me start at the beginning.
I know that nothing looks off about this photo, outside from the fact that I’m using a hot plate and the Cold War is over, but to the left, near the cellophane-wrapped coffee cups, there is a very large, burrito-shaped void where a burrito was this morning. Dear burrito, I had no idea your time on this earth was so short. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to ‘Do You Realize’ blaring over the speakers at Lew’s. Or maybe I should have just eaten you sooner. I had no idea our time together was so short.There are good hotels and there are good hotels. You will realize which one yours falls into after you live there for four months. I can safely say that fate aligned when it both brought me a Pig of the Month Barbecue package and an amazing stay at the Embassy Suites in Rogers. No more than three minutes after I cried the most first world of first world problems into the telephone to the front desk- ‘a maid threw out my burrito!!’ this was slipped under my door.But I had bigger plans in mind.
The players in this scheme, as follows: The bartender was the logistical side of the operation, providing me with not one, but two sheets of industrial foil after taking rough measurements of a full rack of ribs. The girls at the front desk, the muscle, delivering free meal vouchers and getting on the hunt to see what happened to my leftovers. Pig of the Month financed the deal, giving me the ribs up front as well as a deliciously inappropriate shirt, which I wore during the deal. And me? I’m a fresh shaven, extremely good-looking critic and occasional well-mannered shark.And I’m hungry.
The odds are always with the suite.T-0, 19:47 CT. I get what I need. I disperse the staff- the boys at the bar get the materials, the girls at the front make the right calls. I’m upstairs, writing the rib schedule, sweat beading on my brow. We only have so much time. T-10, 19:52 CT. Hot plate set to low. I’ve consulted with one of the bartenders. He has a guy on the inside who knows a thing or two about damned good cocktails and barbecue, and he tells me to fold the extra tin foil over the ribs so that they don’t burn and reinforce the corners. Good man. Good gin.
Hour one, 20:25 CT. The ribs are sizzling. I can smell success in the air. I’ve promised a cut to my compatriots, if we make it through.Hour one, 20:42 CT. I flip the ribs, carefully checking to make sure the foil isn’t sticking to the hot plate or that the room is on fire. We can only do this once. I look like I’ve got it, with my fluffy hand towel potholder and sauce at the ready, my fingers twitching at my side, but I’m a mess inside. Anything could happen.
Hour one, 21:02 CT. Have you guys seen season 4 of Bob’s Burgers? That shit is hilarious. Hour one, 21:15 CT. I spoke too soon. There’s a small crack in the foil and I have to commence emergency operations before all the sauce leaks out. It’s like Gravity, but instead of being suspended in cold, relentless outer space with no chance of survival, I’m cooking ribs in my hotel room. Just like Gravity. I try to imagine what Sandra Bullock would do. I push a lot of buttons and fantasize about being George Clooney. Thank god, it works. Thank god.Hour one, 21:17 CT. I go back to watching Bob’s Burgers. Can tin foil burn? Just in case, I close the door to my bedroom and wait out the inferno. We’re so close. I take a taste of the sauce- Key West Citrus Grilling Sauce. Fuck, this batch is tight and clean. Good citrus flavor, paprika on the back end. I’d keep this all for myself if I could, but I know better. All I have to do now is wait.
Hour two, 21:40 CT. Two hours down. Where has the time gone? I check the ribs. They’re quiet. Too quiet. They are simmering gently in the foil packet, reinforced. Hour two, 21:42 CT. I was too confident, I almost got caught that time. In the fifth flip, for those of you keeping track, my finger grazed the burner and I lept back. The ribs almost fell but I caught them just in time. The mildly burnt finger throbs for five seconds, but it feels like a year. I bite down on an unlit cigarette and wait out the pain. I can hear the shrieks of children in the distance. This is what I’m fighting for. I’m almost out of Gauloises, but I can smell the sweet scent of pork ribs, dusted with spices, soaked with citrus and sauce, lingering in the distance between my laptop and the burner. This will play out to the end. I can feel it.
Hour two, 21:58 CT. I glance at the coupon. It’s my ticket to freedom. I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. How easy would it be to waltz down to the grill? Maybe I’d get a club with smoked salmon. That’s such a good sandwich. With fries, and those tiny bottles of ketchup just for hotels. It would be so easy. I think of ravioli. I think of burgers, even…steak. But I look at the ribs. I can’t stop now. Not when we’ve gone this far.Hour three, 22:00 CT. Google search terms include “ribs on stove top -oven,” “ribs on stove top -grill,” “cook ribs on hot plate?” and “late night delivery pizza rogers ar”. I’m ashamed of the last one. My resolve is weakening. I check the ribs. According to Pig of the Month’s cooking instructions, we have about 20 minutes before all hell breaks loose. God, I hope we make it.
Hour three, 22:48. I open the folds and the steam that billows out is like hell. It fogs up my glasses and makes my face gently moist. I call for backup but the line is dead. I can see the ribs, and I poke them gently with the sharp end of a corkscrew. A segment falls off. I test a rib, hands shaking, cautiously, and bite in. The meat is tender, moist, infused with flavor. They’re perfect. We just made it. We made it. To the victors go the spoils. To the gang, go the ribs.Dinner has been served.