Lee Foote
4 min readNov 24, 2023


There was smoke, and char, and the gleaming blade’s edge pulled with a tender tug against the juicy meat. As the slice rolled over on itself, I could see the perfect ribbon of smoke infusion had made its pinkish red intrusion one thumbnail’s depth into the meat. It was a rainbow of succulence; black char abutted brown crust that melded seamlessly into a preternatural pink, overlaying an interior of a reddish gray for which there is no descriptive word, just a sound of ummmm!

Matt held the forearm-long and razor-sharp slicing knife with an ergonomic aplomb- he likes knives, sharp knives each with a specific purpose — then he applied the gentle pulling pressure of a surgeon. A surgeon that was taking the dead and bringing vitality and life to the hungry present as surely as a necromancer re-vivifies the deceased. Matt is a big guy and when he does his precision slicing, he hunches his shoulders and bears gently down. Once a perfect micro pallet of meat is on that blade, he rises on his toes like a boxer or maybe a matador, whirls and slides it onto your plate, always saying “Wait WAIT! So he can scrape some juices or tuck a garnish onto the plated beauty. We are watching skill, aesthetics, and gourmandship in action.

It is not as simple as this though. The ritual draws from the orderly procession of intent, tools, action and symbolism. I presume his early training as an altar attendant at masses where one acted with reverence for the tangible symbolic objects at hand. His later training was close observation of another priest of food — Anthony Bourdain (RIP) who imbued meaning to food preparation beyond the chemistry and physics, the same seeking that may have ultimately killed him. In all rationality though, Matt embarked on a self-study course plowing through the meters of cookbooks bending his bookshelves. But those are minor players of his meat motivation.

This household has multiple generations (Italian on his wife’s side, Polish on his) where mealtimes are sacred, sacramental and dependable. Boisterous with conversation, jokes, sighs, and patted bellies but a daily expression of love that requires no awkward or stilted words. Love just overflows this active burgeoning kitchen and all are welcomed, family, friends, strangers, friends of strangers.

It works backwards too. The back side of that rib roast was the hours of glorious and pleasant planning, discussion, bragging, trash talking and advice-sharing over how it should be treated. An eighty-dollar roast (or a pig, lamb or venison haunch) deserves that and more. A fuss must be made. Then there is the selection of the roast which is actually more adjudicated than picked. The choice is no less deliberated than a beauty pageant, followed by a careful rub (roast not pageant participants) but oh the options! Salty or sweet? Wet or dry? Soak time? It will be OK regardless. Then the impatience of letting it warm to room temperature is abated by distraction of pit preparations. The grate must be cleaned, fire box emptied then stoked, smoke wood soaked, damper adjusted for wind, charcoal ignited and burned to a white ash covering. Then as the developing coals exude warmth and woody smells, the incense of fruit wood (stolen from the neighbor’s apple tree by mutual agreement wink-wink) is casually tossed on and the smoke arrives — has a Pope been chosen? No, this is much more important than that!

No infant has been placed in a bassinette more carefully than the beloved roast is positioned lengthwise to the smoke flow. Then we wait for the smoke to turn Able into Cain, for a surface bark to appear, and for the first volatilized drippings to hit coals and envelop the porch with scents that drive man and dog to salivation. We are free-basing meat! Eventually a measured heat point and a char color is reached that requires protection so the beloved is swaddled in foil to grow tender and quiet before delivery.

With the anticipation of a honeymoon night, things start to speed up and patience is strained. The roast is disrobed of its foil, an unveiling actually, with steam and clear juices running from the fork holes showing the faintest hint of pink in their dripping torrent. The honest thermometer verifies an genuine 148 degree centre so we are ready . . . to wait . . . it gets to sit and breathe for five minutes, maybe to confess any transgressions, maybe to seek clemency that has absolutely no possibility of being granted. No Wicker Man, Christ child, or pregnancy-tester bunny has been more pre-ordained for delivery to the masses. The cooks and the impatient may take a few tiny samples before the steaming slices are delivered to plates. Maybe Matt’s matador pirouette is symbolic of El momento de la verdad, This truly is sacramental and the highest calling of bovine beauty. We feed.

Is the Ginsu Knife ad true? Can there really be more? Well, yes. Another day and the delivery of thin-sliced cold smoked roast on chewy Italian bread with some hot cracked mustard and just a few sprigs of sauerkraut reminds us to remain faithful to the smoker and to start planning the next meat sabbath.

Lee Foote

Southerner by birth, Northerner by choice, Casual person by nature.