All posts by Ted Luoma

I'm happily married with three lovely daughters. I suffer from chronic pain and started beekeeping a few years ago to help, not only with the mental distraction, but bee stings also help alleviate symptoms.

BBQ Chronicles:  Bar-B-Cutie–Nashville, TN

Since Nashville is near Memphis, TN, I felt that I may have a chance at some incredible barbecue.  Bar-B-Cutie was recommended and the long lunch line showed promise.  We waited thirty minutes to be served, which set me up with empty hopes.

The baby back ribs looked promising, but all hope was lost as my teeth discovered that they were overly cooked.  They tasted okay, but the meat pratically fell off the bone and I could taste that they were definitely finished off in the oven. 

A lackluster barbecue performance.

The barbecue chicken looked institutional, like the middle school lunch lady would award as a penalty for cutting in line.  It definitely basked in the warm glow of an oven.

The best part was the pulled pork.  It was average and predictable.  If you want authentic barbecue, try another joint.

Bar-B-Cutie scores a 2.5/5.  I’ve had worse. 

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken–Nashville, TN

I’m always up for a road trip, and it has been a couple of months since I’ve been out of town.  This week I’m in Nashville, TN, and I have heard that Hattie B’s is where you go for hot chicken.

I’ve had hot wings, but hot chicken brings this fowl medium an entirely different direction.  It’s not sauced like hot wings, and it’s not just spicy fried chicken.  After it is marinated, seasoned, breaded, and fried, it is slathered in a cayenne-based paste.  For a more detailed exposition of Nashville’s hot chicken, you can consult Serious Eats.

I didn’t feel like torching my palate so I settled on the hot chicken.  There were two hotter grades, but I was quite satisfied with my choice.   

The chicken says it’s hot.
The chicken was alive with flavor.  At first you are hit with a wall of cayenne. Then subtle notes of sweetness and hints of paprika bubble to the surface. It was incredibly juicy and shrouded in perfectly crackly-crunchy skin.  The flavors were nicely balanced.  It wasn’t like eating a blowtorch, but nearly two hours later, my lips still retain a touch of heat and my esophagus is simmering with warmth. 
As you eat, the chicken paints your fingers red with the seasoning.
 I knew the line out the door was a good sign and I’m glad I braved the wait in the summer heat.  If you want hot chicken, you need to try Hattie B’s.

BBQ Chronicles:  Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue–Jefferson, TX

Yesterday was one of those rare days when both my wife and I were off work. We had planned on some type of outdoor family adventure, but the rainy weather made us modify our plans.  Plan B was to make a short trek to Texas for some delectable barbecue.  I brought, Alli, my oldest daughter to Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue last year when I started my journey to visit the TM Top 50 joints, so I already knew that we were going to get a respectable meal.

 

Spare rib, fatty brisket, and sausage.
 
Alli and I asked for untrimmed fatty brisket–sliced.  I’ll have to admit that there wasn’t much of a crust, but the perfectly rendered fat made up for it.  The meat was a bit blandish, but it did have a nice smokiness and was deliciously tender. Any joker can chop shoe leather and slather it in sauce, but it takes a certain level of expertise to smoke up a slab of fork tender meat.  My wife, Heather, and I had a second dose of brisket in our swamp fries–a devilish concoction of hand cut fries smothered in brisket, jalapeños, onions, and cheese.  Hand cut fries are the best and when they are paired with BBQ, they are phenomenal.

 

The fabled swamp fries that might be the Fouke Monster’s main staple.
 
The spare ribs had a nice smoke ring.  There wasn’t much rub induced flavor, but they were nice.  They gave the perfect resistance when bitten.  No mushy meat and it came clean from the bone.

The smoked sausage was forgettable.  It gave a nice hint of fire as if they were hot links, but I should have passed on it to make room for some smoked turkey.

The barbecue beans were punched up baked beans from a can, but man, they were punched up.  I really enjoyed them.

I also asked the pit master what he puts in the sauce that gives it its sweetness. He immediately responded with brown sugar.  When I pressed him, he gave a bit of a sly smile but wouldn’t give it up.  I detected a fruity note, perhaps cherry.  Whatever he sneaks into his sauce works.

Aside from the lack of bark on these delectable morsels and the tired sausage, everything was great.  I’m a bit surprised because my favorite from our smorgasbord was the swamp fries.  Incredible.
Explore the following links for more BBQ exploits:

Bartley’s BBQ

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

Hitch-N-Post

Bob’s Bar-B-Que

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q

Dreamland

Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue

Unborn Again

I was listening to Paul Washer today when I was reminded that Christianity isn’t about morality or being a good person.  This is oftentimes the message that unbelievers hear.  A common belief is that God is loving; therefore, He will overlook my sins because overall I’m a pretty good person.  After all, I’ve never killed anyone.  I even help old ladies across the street.  But the truth is that I’m not good.  It doesn’t matter what I do.  It is impossible for my good works to overcome my bad ones.  

In reality, I have no good in me apart from Jesus.  Yet people despise the godman and attempt to earn their own salvation.  When we get caught up in religion, we are no more saved than the unregenerate.  

Paul Washer had an analogy that clarified this.  Suppose a preacher went to visit a member of his congregation at his house because he has not been attending lately.  The man says, “Preacher, you’re right.  I need to get back in church because it is good for me.”  The preacher confronts him on his drinking.  The man retorts, “You’re right preacher.  I’ve been getting drunk a lot lately.  I like boozing but I need to quit because that’s what’s best for me.”  Now the preacher confronts the man about his infidelity.  The man says, “I know it’s not what’s best for me.  I need to quit carousing.”

The following Sunday, the man comes to church and fellow church members are amazed that the preacher was able to lead a sheep back into the fold.  The truth is that this man never was a sheep.  He’s just a goat attending church.

We shouldn’t be doing what we hate doing because it is good for us.  It’s not like force feeding yourself kale because it is heart healthy.  If we are secure in Christ, what we love should be a reflection of that.  If we love our sin we aren’t saved.

This reminds me of a former friend.  After sharing the gospel many times, he claimed that he has “accepted” Christ.  After only a few weeks, he shed his identity with Christ as easily as he allegedly identified with him.  He actually says he was born again (but no longer).  One cannot be saved only to become unsaved.  Either you are born again or you are not.  

It is clear that he doesn’t know what it means to be born again.  He never was born again.  He was blinded by his own wisdom and goodness.  He doesn’t realize that he is a bad man in need of a savior.

There are people just like him in the church.  They are caught up with religion or self righteousness.  They don’t understand that keeping law will not save them.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey God, but we don’t follow God’s laws to be saved.  We strive to keep the law because we are saved.

Mooyah–Tyler, TX

I was on my way home from a Mercy Chefs deployment in Van, TX and had planned on stopping at Stanley’s in Tyler, TX.  They have excellent barbecue.  In fact, I’d say they have the only barbecue in fifty miles.  All other claimants in the area do not produce barbecue, but an abominable imposter.  Sadly, Stanley’s is closed on Sundays, so I had to think fast and settled on Mooyah Burgers, Shakes & Fries.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I was encouraged when I saw fresh cut fries on the menu.  I also thought the burgers looked promising.  I was thinking about Five Guys fries and a punched up burger as I consider five Guys’ burgers as consistent, yet average.  If I hadn’t shelled out eleven bucks for a burger, fries, and a drink, I could have better enjoyed an otherwise unenjoyable burger.

The bun was soft and squishy like an old lady’s flabby neck (I mean this in the most complimentary way).  The size of the party was impressive.  The sheer number of available toppings and sauces were unmatched.  The flowing grease mustn’t be confused with juiciness, though.

At first, I actually thought I was assaulting an incredibly juicy burger, but the unpleasant liveresque aftertaste coupled with grease that coated my throat, I quickly realized that I had stumbled into a nightmare.  I’m not opposed to excessively greasy burgers, but this was no enhancement.  This was obscenity on a bun.  This was equivalent to grazing on a minefield of back acne. 

If you want some tasty fries, Mooyah will satisfy.  If you are still lusting for decadence, pass on the burger and get a peanut butter and banana concrete at Andy’s Frozen Custard down the street.

More Human than Human

One would be hard pressed to launch an argument against Intelligent Design without including the bankrupt worldview of Darwinian evolution.  Essentially, we can determine that God made everything, or more or less, the natural world is self-made.  Further, to assert that anything or anyone other than God is responsible for the creation of the universe is calling God a liar.  The Bible tells us plainly in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 that God (or more specifically in John 1:3 that Jesus Christ) is the Creator, not random happenstance.

Another interesting point regarding evolution is that it is commonly accepted that some mutations actually will improve a species.  Who decides if these changes over time actually make a particular species better or worse?  How are these value judgments decided?  Imagine if some monkeys sprouted wings.  Are these wings a product of evolution, which implies that these changes are favorable to the species?  Who gets to determine that winged monkeys are superior to regular wingless monkeys?  What shapes their worldview?

The argument for Intelligent Design also falls short.  Evolutionists can cite “imperfections” in genetic make ups, and an argument for Intelligent Design can challenge these “imperfections” by stating that these traits are in fact perfect for the species in question.  However, there are imperfections in genetic makeup, and without citing God as the Designer and The Fall in Genesis 3, one is hard pressed to fully explain these “mistakes.”[1]  The Bible explains that sin cursed creation, and that curse is the cause of these defects.

It seems that science cannot wait for evolution to improve humanity.  Instead of waiting on contrived science to bring about a new age for mankind, scientists are meddling with human genetics and making value judgments as to what traits are more desirable than others.  Everyone can agree that disease certainly is not desirable and the use of this knowledge could be a boon for humanity.  But human enhancement  is not about medicine.  Steward states, “Human enhancement refers to the use of technology designed and implemented not for medical reasons but for enhancing the human body.”[2]  Science fiction has covered this subject for years, and now we are on the cusp of engineering superior intelligence, enhanced senses, and in general, making people more human than human.  Again, how are we to determine what traits are more desirable?  From a biblical perspective, mankind had an opportunity for perfection and we blew it.  From a worldly perspective, anything is on the table.  Maybe people will be engineered with bioluminescence.  Who doesn’t want to glow in the dark?

In all seriousness, when genetic engineering wanders beyond curing people of disease and packages human enhancement as a commodity like plastic surgery, it is perverted as we are usurping abilities that should only belong to God and the day will come when mankind realizes the true fruits of genetic tampering.

[1] https://answersingenesis.org/intelligent-design/ided-for-a-imperfect-argument/

[2] http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/fall-2013/human-enhancement#.VOuDI_nF_C8

BBQ Chronicles: Bartley’s BBQ–Grapevine, TX

We were in Dallas Saturday, and interestingly enough, I learned about a restaurant that is known for its chili when I was researching BBQ joints. We headed out to Grapevine so that I could sample Tolbert’s Texas Red. I know, I’m always on the lookout for BBQ, but why not seek out great chili as well? It turns out that Tolbert’s has a very nice bowl of chili. So much so, that I would certainly return for another bowl. My wife’s steak also had a nice flavor, but I caught a glimpse of little Maddie’s hamburger. Let’s put it this way: I don’t plan on going to Tolbert’s for their burgers.

After a nice lunch, we piled into our van so that we could get to our hotel. Just as we turned the corner, I saw Bartley’s BBQ. It’s on my list! I had to stop for something. (As you may know, I’m trying to visit all BBQ establishments on the Texas Monthly Top 50).

As I walked in and perused their fare, I suddenly uttered, “That’s bologna!” They had barbecued bologna and I had to get some. The proprietor told me their specialty was brisket, so I ordered a half pound of the fatty stuff. He pulled out a fresh brisket and deftly cut to the fat. He was also careful to maximize on the crust so that I would fully enjoy this treat. To make the family happy, I grabbed a half dozen cinnamon rolls which are made at their sister bakery.

IMG_4940

It was much later before I enjoyed these take out treats, but the cinnamon rolls were delicious. The BBQ bologna was a definite treat. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this under appreciated meat quite this way.

The brisket is what caused my wife to call me an addict. She has drug addicts in her family and she hates that mentality. Apparently, my behavior isn’t that much different than a junkie looking to score. She just doesn’t appreciate a perfectly rendered piece of fat candied with a nice black crust.

Bartley’s BBQ easily earns a 4.0/5.0 from me. Everything I tried exceeded all expectations and they are a place you mustn’t overlook if you are in the Dallas area. Do yourself a favor, get some cinnamon rolls. Next time I will try their kolaches.

If you are looking for other joints that scored at least a 4.0, try Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue and Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue.  You will not be disappointed.

Mercy Chefs Dallas Homeless Outreach–2/15/2015

Being a Mercy Chef is a lot of work, but the rewards are seemingly limitless. I am always awestruck to be blessed when I set out to bless others. It’s counter-intuitive. Receiving sounds like it should be better than giving. It’s like saying 2 + 2 = 5.

Now we aren’t total kooks by going all the way to Dallas to feed homeless people. After all, we have homeless people in Shreveport. We do serve at home and are presently exploring ways to get even more involved, but in Dallas, I have access to equipment and a network of incredible chefs where we can go where the homeless live and set up shop essentially in their living room to feed and fellowship. (Plus, I get to drive around a thirty-seven foot mobile kitchen). A fantasy of mine is to have a food truck so I could do this every day, but that’s another story.

IMG_4973
My daughter, Alli, is hard at work while I’m creeping on her.

This is the second month where I was essentially in charge of the day. I did the shopping, drove the kitchen to the site, and oversaw the operation. I really enjoy the responsibility, yet I’m always humbled to be handed the reigns as I’m just a hack. I work with über talented chefs who do this sort of thing for a living. Cooking is my passion, but I’m just an amateur. When I started volunteering with Mercy Chefs, I was dishwasher guy. Even if I was still dishwasher guy I would be thrilled because it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.

Every time I serve I’m reminded of Luke 14:13-14–“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

I don’t think our motivation to serve others should be for blessings, though. We shouldn’t serve for fuzzy feelings or because others will give us a pat on the back. Our direction is clear. Christ commands us. We can’t serve him from our couch. We shouldn’t wait for others to do the work while we sit idly by. We shouldn’t make excuses because of our limitations or because we are too busy. Can we really be too busy to disobey Christ? Can we really be so apathetic that we just turn away when we see our neighbor in need? Are we Christians or are we merely poseurs?

The fields are ripe, Christian, and we have work to do. Whether you are a chef, or a teacher, or a lawyer, or a ditch digger, you have an assignment from our King.

Hypocritical Christian

I just walked in the door about a half hour ago. It has been a long weekend as the family and I piled into the mommy van and drove to Dallas yesterday. Our main reason to go was because of a homeless outreach we participated in today, but as yesterday was my wife’s birthday, we had a nice lunch at Tolbert’s, then picked up a BBQ and cinnamon roll snack at Bartley’s BBQ, and let the kids swim in the hotel pool.

This was actually the first time we came the day before. On a typical trip, we get up at 3 or 4 am on Sunday, drive to Dallas, and cook for some outdoor friends. Maybe it sounds strange, but as Christians, we try to take the “love your neighbor” commandment seriously. Notice I said try. We are the typical hypocritical Christians that screw things up most of the time, but once in awhile, I hope we make adequate representatives of Christ.

I’m not being facetious. Christians are fallible. Oftentimes, Christians look just like hypocritical unbelievers. (Not that all unbelievers are…face it. We are all hypocrites.) Oftentimes, it is easy to pigeonhole a Christian because he is being compared to God.

Besides, the very best things I might accomplish in my life are nothing but filthy rags I present to my King. I am not looking to glorify myself. My humble efforts are only to point to Jesus.

It’s been less than an hour and the Luoma household is back to business as usual. The kids are fighting and I’m trying to convince them that we should be quiet. By yelling. Did I mention that I was a hypocrite?

Bad Theology

I enjoy a good Facebook debate. The problem is that it invariably devolves into refutation of bad doctrine and sloppy hermeneutics. I’m sure you have encountered the “do not judge” canard. People like to stop at Matthew 7:1 and ignore the rest of the chapter which actually teaches us to rightly judge.

There was a guy today who said he is loving and tolerant of everyone, “just as Jesus was tolerant of the prostitute who was about to be stoned.” Mind you, this was a professing Christian.  He not only attempted to pummel scripture so that he could make his point for homosexual marriage, but he completely got it wrong.  This guy was so far off base, he could have better supported his position by vaguely referencing The Cat in the Hat.  We can clearly see that the woman in John 8 was an adulteress, not a prostitute.  Further, he asserts that Jesus is tolerant.  I suppose that depends on how carefully you read the Bible.

He and I would be in agreement that Jesus loves prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners.  As a matter of fact, he loves sinners so much that he died while we were still his enemies. (Romans 5:10)  Is Jesus tolerant of their sin?  Moreover, is Jesus tolerant of your sin?

Do we take the Bible at face value or do we rely on our own understanding?  If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we can take it seriously and the entire book is about HIM.  If you cannot see his handiwork in the Old Testament, then maybe you need to look closer.  Isaac is a picture of Jesus.  Jonah is a picture of Jesus.  Moses’ brazen serpent in the wilderness is a picture of Jesus.  Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, is a picture of Jesus.  Noah’s Ark is a picture of Jesus.  Even the manna is a picture of Jesus.

Do you think that the God of the universe went to these great lengths so that sin may abound? (Romans 5:20)  Absolutely not.  Jesus is most intolerant in regard to sin.  His word was and is divisive, not harmonious.  Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)  Jesus came here ready for battle.  This was not a literal sword that we might imagine.  The sword is Jesus’ word.  You see this referenced again in Revelation 19:15. 

Jesus gets even more radical when he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)  That sounds demanding; he said that we must obey him.  When we actively pursue sin and licentiousness, is that obeying Jesus?  Is that loving Him?  If you were to have an extramarital affair, is that a manifestation of your love for your spouse?  Paul writes the church in Corinth and says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)  Those verses encompass all of us, yet the believer is sanctified.  Why would we cling to our sin that separates us from our Redeemer?

Bad theology is deadly.  The poor soul I had a dialogue with on Facebook is utterly confused as to what the Bible says, yet when he is challenged with scripture (like so many others), he bristles and rejects the truth.  He champions the wrong Jesus as his is absent from the Bible.  I believe that sound doctrine is fundamental for the Christian.  Without it, we are tossed about while we grasp at worldly constructs of love, tolerance, and acceptance when the Bible teaches of sin, righteousness, and judgment.