Mr. Earl’s Year-End Party With Barbecue

Happy New Year, and Welcome to HeatCageKitchen: Automotive Edition! There’s some delicious barbecue in Central Louisiana, and BF and I were cordially invited to have some.

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Happy 2018, Dear Readers:

Welcome to another edition of “What Are These Two Lug Nuts Up To Now?”

No, I promise not to mention you-know-what that me and BF are supposed to be getting in shape for. Haven’t been able to carve out exercise time just yet. Need to do that soon–it’s February! I’d be riding my bike now if I hadn’t hurt my back this week. . .standing up from a seated position. No kidding. It’s getting better now.

So, does your office coffee look like this? Mine does.

French Press coffee pot with milk, cup and sweetener

Office coffee, Amy Style

I posted that on Facebook the other day, and a former coworker was actually jealous. He worked with me at Boeing and now lives in the Seattle area.

I’ve got a short break in client work, so I thought I should try and finish a blog post. Irony: I know from writing blog posts for digital marketing agencies that in order to get rankings in Google and other search engines, you need to regularly publish useful and relevant content. Yes, I can do that. . .soon. Besides, I’ve already paid for the domain name for another year (It’s not expensive.)

Let’s get started.

Vegan Beef Jerky

You’re probably thinking, “what’s this foolishness?” Like I did when I saw this stuff in Whole Foods recently:


Are you kidding me?

This is not a joke:

Nothin’ but love? No kidding–sounds like a whole lot of nothing. Yuck!

If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.

Price Tag for Vegan Jerkey, $6.99 a bag


For a bunch of soybeans and sugar for people who eat “nothing with a face,” but it’s made to TASTE like something with a face. (Remember last year the “beef-free beef broth” I found in the same Whole Foods?) It’s similar to this product from my favorite snack company Epic, which is also available in Whole Foods, and about the same price with actual MEAT. But this “vegan jerky” has no beef in it. What’s the point of fake-me-out “beef jerky” made with soybeans?

If you’re vegan, why are you going to mess with something that tastes like something you don’t eat? Makes no sense, but, well, supply and demand and all that. Apparently the company makes several types, too. Here’s a picture from their Instagram page via their website that says “Happy Science Fiction Day.” Oh, the IRONY.

I’m still allergic to soy. Just say no and save your money for real food. Yuck.

The Christmas Kittens

Christmas was relatively low-key for us, just like Thanksgiving. We were alone, and we went to visit BF’s daughter, her partner and their son, then to his Dad’s place up the road. BF will have another grandson in March, which we were notified of about October, I think. His Dad was thrilled that we went up to that little room upstairs and cleared out all of BF’s old rubbish, and burned a garbage bag full of old bills from 10 years ago. Mr. C. said it was the best Christmas present ever.

At the kids’ place, someone dumped off two very tiny, helpless kittens a few days earlier. These two millennials were going to leave them to starve out in the cold. She’s pregnant, they have dogs, so. . .on the way out, I scooped them up and brought them home with us. They made themselves comfortable immediately after they had some food and water.

Sweet little angels

These two were just all over the place:

They hadn’t yet learned to use a keyboard, thank heavens.

It subjected me to an adverse environment:


How am I supposed to work under these conditions?

The full-grown cat was VERY unhappy to have these interlopers. I never intended to keep them, of course, just to make sure they didn’t meet a terrible fate outside. These two weighed about as much as a sandwich, and they’d been outside in the cold on their own for a few days without their mother or shelter, fed once or twice. BF understood, and didn’t mind me taking them home for a rescue.

The pit bull puppy wanted to play with them, and they put him in his place with some hissing and swatting.

Pitbull and kitten standoff


I kept putting the little fur balls on the other side of this “doggie gate” BF built to keep the dogs in the living room. I wanted them to stay back there so that they’d be safe. But they’re so tiny that they just kept walking right through the slats.

They tried to make nice with the big cat, but Tabbicat wasn’t having any of it. A week of keeping them separated with a makeshift litterbox in my office was all we could take, but we endured. Tabbicat whizzed in a corner, then moved on to BF’s living room chair, multiple times. I think we got the smell out, but BF still isn’t sitting in it. There may be a slipcover in its future.

Only the big cat minded. Because Tabbicat is very, very bonded with BF (he should announce their engagement) he didn’t mess with the kittens when they climbed up his chair and onto his chest. I had to peel them off BF, so that their scent didn’t mix with his.

I attempted to contact several local animal rescues, and only one responded. The lady from the one I got to met me  at the Hammond Starbucks that Friday and I sadly handed them over. (I was crying on the drive down there.) She noticed that they were very docile, and they should be adopted pretty easily. I told her that if I ever found out she was involved in dog fighting I would hunt her DOWN. She laughed at me. I knew they were going to have a better life, and I wished them well, told them to be happy in their new homes.

It would have been nice to have adorable kittens a little longer. But we know we did the right thing by them.

The New Year’s Eve Barbecue

I’ve probably mentioned this before, BF is a car guy. He’s not only a mechanic, he also builds race engines. Additionally, he also knows people in the genre, and he’s been to a number of events where he’s met lots of people. This is similar to my going to AWAI Bootcamp and other conferences where I’ve met people that I’ve kept in touch with over the years.

But on this day, we drove a couple of hours to a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana, for Mr. Earl Schexnyder’s annual get-together for all his “race guy” friends. Well, OK, there were women too, but the majority of the race people were guys. Us gals were there as dates and to see what they get up to. Fortunately, BF doesn’t drink, smoke or anything like that. And I was there as a food blogger, taking pictures and nibbling like the rest of them. Oh, boy, did I nibble–just like at Bootcamp.

BF has known this man for many years, meeting him at an annual event called Drag Week. However, due to his work schedule, BF has never been able to go on New Year’s Eve. This year, he put in for a vacation day, since Mr. Earl decided to schedule his annual cookout for the 30th of December. It fell on a Saturday, so we got up early, took care of things, and hit the road.

Road Selfies


Do you like this one?


Or this one? (BF liked this one better.)

Mr. Earl has been doing this annual cookout for many years, and enjoys inviting the people in that he has worked with and knows from his business. While he’s doing gumbo, he’s not the only cook.

Now you’re cooking with gas!

This was the chicken they added to the Gumbo. Please note that I have no idea what “Slap Ya Mama” is like, nor do I condone such violence.


Dropped right into the pot.

And rice to go with the gumbo:

Very old rice or slow cooker iwth the namem Ada on it.

Any idea how old this is?

Some 90 miles from home, we passed all manner of vehicles, including at least a dozen with Texas plates on them. Through areas with nothing and little areas with lots of mobile homes, we ran the gamut of Louisiana. I talked him into taking me to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge on the way home. We had three week-long freezes, twice with snow, and I wanted to make sure that I was stocked up with chocolate almond milk. No way am I giving up my yeast-free hot chocolate for anybody!

The Shop

Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.

Food stacked on the lift

Food on the lift!


guys in the shop

Hungry men ready for gumbo, barbecue, and anything else that was tasty

It’s a social event, of course, and a nice marketing thing, too. Think of it as the mechanic’s version of a cocktail party, and everyone enjoys themselves.

Guys standing in the garage door opening

A friendly crowd

So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:

Strawberry cake at the barbecue

Isn’t it pretty?

It was the first thing I saw, and it was a white cake with all that frosting. I didn’t touch it, honest. But what I did touch, multiple times, was this:

7 layer dip

BF stayed away from this, I think it confused him. It looked like 7 Layer Dip, but I didn’t ask. I was too busy nibbling at it. And I couldn’t keep my paws out of these, either:


Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Bundles at the Barbecue

They tasted better than they looked. I couldn’t stop.

Being garage guys, you know there are:



And of course, cars, cars, and more cars. With guys talking about cars. But we’ll get to that later, OK?

But let’s talk about something really important to a Texan, native or naturalized. Barbecue.

Meet Alvin Calhoun

Now, I’ve always enjoyed barbecue. I make my own barbecue sauce (when BF isn’t home so I don’t have to listen to it.) I believe that Texas has the best barbecue, but that’s an 18-year prejudice. I’m not saying Louisiana can’t have good barbecue–but that stuff BF likes in Hammond has absolutely no taste to it. It looks like dog food, and tastes like it could be (not that I’ve sampled dog food myself.) On this occasion, BF was telling the truth, and we met some nice people, too.

In this little town on the other side of Lafayette, in an auto repair shop, on a slightly cool, and cloudy day, was the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. BF kept telling me about this man with a long history of doing all kinds of things, including car stuff, and now he does barbecue, too. Everyone loves his barbecue. When you have it, BF says,  “It’s a life-changing event!” I was about to find out.

This is the very nice and very avid barbecue guru, Alvin Calhoun:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

In all seriousness, you’ll notice this man is in a wheelchair. I won’t go into the specifics, but yes, he’s in a wheelchair, and he’s creating barbecue. Delicious barbecue. As in, you wish you hadn’t eaten all that other stuff before you had this delicious barbecue. Because now you’re going to need a wheelbarrow to get back into the truck to go home. His barbecue has won awards, beating out New Orleans’ own Brennan family. That should tell you something.

Now, all my Texas readers are thinking, “what does he use in his barbecue sauce?” Well, my Lone Star friends, Mr. Calhoun has a different opinion of barbecue sauce. Much as I like barbecue sauce, he said something I wasn’t expecting.

“Barbecue sauce is for when you have something to hide.”

No kidding. I wasn’t expecting that.

Baby back ribs on a barbecue grill

Waiting for the baby back ribs

Mr. Calhoun is from North Louisiana, but now makes his home in the Baton Rouge area. He was taught by a friend how to barbecue. His approach was to think about how primitive man found himself with a feral hog on a fire, and finding out it was delicious.

Screwdriver barbecue tool

That’s not actually a screwdriver. . . .

How He Does It

Mr. Calhoun uses a dry rub, the ingredients of which are secret. I wouldn’t be crass enough to ask what’s in it, and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s always cooking, and he’s known far and wide by folks who appreciate it.

The temperature at which the barbecue is cooking

While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:


Ribs cooking on the grill

Still cooking

Of course, Mr. Calhoun has some great help, too, and I offered to bring him water or whatever he needed while he was tending the grill pits. We all had a nice time talking about stuff, but for some reason, he thought I was a food critic. We’re all “food critics” to a certain extent, but no, I’m a food blogger. I just write about stuff. Admittedly, since 2012, I’ve mentioned a few things to avoid (like Splenda and Aspartame.)  But barbecue from Alvin Calhoun’s barbecue pits is not in that group. Do not avoid this man’s cookery.

So, after a while, he asked around for a plastic knife. What the heck? Because it’s ready when you can cut it with a plastic knife.

The Moment Of Truth

He offered me the first piece.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alvin Calhoun makes some really incredible, delicious barbecue. Two thumbs up, and if I had more, they’d be up too. Hot from the grill, but not pepper hot, but not overly sweet, either, like some barbecue can be. A great flavor with a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, but *not* the kind that whacks you upside your head and has you begging for a fire extinguisher.

And did I mention the husband and wife who drove in from San Antonio to meet Mr. Calhoun and visit everyone? We talked about HEB and other great Texas stuff. To which BF said, “and nobody cares but you.”

Don’t Miss The Barbecue

If ever you are invited anywhere this man is cooking, DO NOT eat anything else until after you have some barbecue, because you will, indeed, regret doing so. As I often say, I speak from experience.

Cooked barbecue ribs in a pan


Thank you, Mr. Calhoun. Everything they said was true.

There Were Other Things Besides Barbecue

Ok, so, BF reminded me that it wasn’t really a “barbecue.” Mr. Earl’s was a cookout that had barbecue on the side. Well, it really was on the side–since it needed to be outside, Mr. Calhoun and his equipment was parked under the car port at Mr. Earl’s house on the other side of the parking lot. And of course, doing barbecue with pits, there’s the whole smoke thing, so he needed to be outside with it.

There was gumbo, cooked by Mr. Earl himself:


Now you’re cooking with gas!

I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.


fried turkey

Fried turkey

Let me preface this by saying that frying an entire turkey in a vat of hot oil can be a very dangerous thing. Stories abound about the *wrong* way to fry a turkey. Fortunately, we witnessed nothing like that.

Baton Rouge General Hospital has a series of ads about their different medical services, and this one involves the potential dangers of fried turkey. It’s short, but funny.

So, what I was told by Mr. Bill Doucette was that they injected the turkey with something that I can’t remember–something that’s made for that purpose. (The “Cajun Injector” kind of thing.)

turkey going into the hot pot

Turkey goes into the pot

They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:

Turkey cooking in very hot oil

Bubble, bubble, toil & trouble. . . .

It doesn’t take long, either, something like a half hour, maybe. Remember that to roast a 22-pound turkey in the oven, you’re looking at about four hours.

When it comes out, it looks like this:

Fried turkey done


And they let me try it. Honest, it’s nothing like the brined turkey I like to make, but it is indeed good. A different flavor than the brined/roast version. I might try to do this one day, but. . .not until we have at least two or three new fire extinguishers available. And the undisciplined dogs are completely away from everything.

And Of Course, Cars

If the GER had been with us, he would have been licking his chops over not only the barbecue, gumbo and donuts, he would have been salivating all over these cars. Alas, my friend, I offer you the pictures I managed to get off my phone.

Every other day of the year, Mr. Earl runs an auto shop called Schexnayder Racing (this is his Facebook page.)  We went in the ultra-reliable White Knight, but others were in, shall we say, much more aesthetic vehicles than we were. Then again, the White Knight is a truck, not a race car, just like Mr. Earl doesn’t run a restaurant.

Old Car

Right this way, Miss O’Donnell. . .

This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.

Plymouth close up

This is a closeup of the hood


Plymouth steering wheel

Yes, you can drive it on the roads, it’s legal

But something tells me it’s not completely finished.

Pontiac interior passenger side

Maybe one day

Pop the hood:

Open hood on purple truck

Under the hood of this classic

This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.

There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.

old sedan

This lovely old thing was LOUD!

All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.

Now this one was particularly interesting:

orange car at barbecue

Isn’t it a beauty?


Chute bags on the back of a car.

These are the chutes that deploy at the end of the race to stop the car, but it also has brakes.

We saw some amazing vehicles. But I didn’t get to ride in anything but The White Knight.

Mr. Earl’s Gift To His Father

The other big event was this car being unveiled:

The Gift Car

The Gift

The elder Mr. Schexnayder had a house fire a while back, and lost literally everything, including his race car. His family, including Mr. Earl, got together and found another car just like it, and have been sneaking around behind his back to have it not only restored, but to make it exactly like the car he lost in the fire. They had a heck of a time with it, but they found one, in Texas somewhere. It’s not finished yet.

The Schexnayder family and the new race car for their father.

That’s the elder Mr. Earl with the plaid shirt on

When they were ready to take it out of the truck, BF leaned over to me and said, “You’re about to see a grown man cry.”

The car isn’t quite finished yet, but the elder Mr. Schexnayder was quite happy with his gift.

Before we left, I looked across the street and saw this:

Field across the street from Schexnayder Racing

The view from Mr. Earl’s shop parking lot.

How’d you like to drive this one?

Silver Firebird with black roof

Well, hello there.

A Pretty Good Saturday

It was a long, but very enjoyable Saturday for us, and I ended up driving home after we left Baton Rouge and Trader Joe’s. BF took a nap, and I streamed some music on my phone (that he didn’t like.)

Many thanks to Mr. Earl of Schexnayder Racing for the great food and the great time we all had. It was great to meet everyone, and BF was quite happy to see people he hasn’t seen in a while.

And of course, to Mr. Alvin Calhoun, Louisiana’s Barbecue Master. I’m serious–if you ever have the opportunity, do make the effort to see Mr. Calhoun and sample his wonderful barbecue. He’s a really nice man and we really enjoyed spending time with him.

Coming Soon

I’ve bought some new things in the last few months, and I’m not finished. No, I’m not buying lots of “trinkets,” as BF puts it, but I can contribute to the household and cover things BF can’t. But right after the barbecue, I bought something we needed around here, and next time, I’ll unveil the new “baby” that’s in the kitchen.

Meantime, Happy New Year, and Happy Cooking!



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