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RBR Tailgating: Shish Kebob

A meeting of the best defensive line and the largest offensive line in college football promises a primal slug fest in the trenches. What's more primal than food on a stick over fire?

Per The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman (with other contributors, as noted), shish kabob's "history can be traced to Caucasus Mountain nomads, who would cook small pieces of their meat on the ends of their swords held over an open fire." I may well cook my next meal over an open fire fueled by The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques Rolland and Carol Sherman (with other contributors, as noted).

What utter rot.

It doesn't take an archeologist to surmise that we've been eating cooked food longer that we've been crafting swords. It doesn't take an anthropologist to surmise that weapon technology probably outpaced pans and other cookery. Not that a lack of pans stopped us. Sticks abounded.

Pace Rolland and Sherman (et. al.) it's widely accepted that food over fire predates metallurgy. Mankind has been cooking food over fire on the end of a stick ever since we tired of that ashy flavor so often associated with meat tossed directly into a flame. It's as primal as cooking gets.

While the rest of you watch the Alabama Crimson Tide welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks to the totally non-threatening safe space that is Bryant-Denny Stadium, I will be in the bear/snake/coyote infested woods of Talladega National Forest with some 200+ cub scouts.

I'll be trying to stay out of the sights of BB gun barrels and avoiding the sad little arcs of half-drawn arrows as they limp through the air, but obviously the biggest issue dogging me is getting the game in.

I've got WatchESPN, but even if my battery lasted long enough to watch the whole game, I will get zero signal at Camp Sequoyah. A radio would seem the obvious answer, until I realized that all the devices I use to listen to the radio are internet streaming platforms that rely on a data plan to bring in free radio waves. A few calls to borrow a modest convenience confirm that my friends are equally modern.

Back to food, I'm looking at three meals of hot dogs on a stick over a fire this weekend. Thankfully I love hot dogs on a stick over fire, but not when I should be watching Bert get frustrated on the sidelines. While you needn't suffer as I will, you can show some sympathy by eating stick food as well, albeit something more interesting than an Oscar Meyer weiner.

Moderately Spicy Shish Kebobs with Lamb and Chicken

1 lb. Lamb Shoulder Meat, trimmed from the bone and cut into 1-2 inch cubes

1 lb. Boneless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-2 inch cubes

2 tbsp. Sweet Paprika

2 tsp. Cumin

2 pinches Powdered Cayenne Pepper

4 Cloves of Garlic

Olive Oil


1 Green Bell Pepper

1 Red Chili

1 Red Onion

1 Zucchini

Rosemary, quite a bit

Spiced Lamb

Put the lamb and chicken in separate bowls and salt to taste.

Using a mortar and pestle, smash 2 cloves of the garlic and blend 1 tbsp. paprika, 1 tsp. cumin, and a pinch of cayenne pepper with a glug or two of olive oil until smooth. If you must, you can throw everything in a food processor and pulse a few times, but a mortar and pestle is more in the primal spirit of things. Pour over the lamb and toss to coat the meat thoroughly. Repeat the whole process and toss with the chicken.

Put both meats in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 -2 hours.

Vegetables in a Bowl

Deseed the peppers and cut all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. In a third bowl, toss the vegetables with a little bit of salt and a minimum of olive oil - just enough to get a light coating of flame attracting fat on them.

Rosemary Spears

Instead of using the traditional bamboo skewers, I took a few woody sprigs of rosemary and stripped them, leaving only a few leaves on one end so it looks kind of like those arrows the scouts will not have the strength to fully imbue with the needed kinetic energy.

Set the stripped leaves aside for another meal. The woody bits are all we need for this recipe. It's surprising the amount of flavor these sprigs give the kebobs.

Whittle the ends to a point - it doesn't have to be very sharp - and start poking food. I like to skewer lamb with red onion, bell pepper, and red chili and then chicken with bell pepper, zucchini, and red onion, but take that as the suggestion it is meant to be. Mix and match to your heart's content.

Uncooked Kebobs

When the coals are ready, set the shish kebobs on the grill for about 4 minutes, flip or roll them over, and let cook for another 4 minutes. Let rest for a minute or two. I like a bit of char on mine so I set them directly over the flame, but that's just personal preference. Feel free to put them off to the side, just adjust the cooking time as necessary.

Final Kebobs

This is by no means the end all be all of flavor combinations, just one that I'm particularly fond of. This recipe is loosely based on something I think I saw Jamie Oliver do on television once rather than an authentic Middle Eastern tradition. Feel free to substitute vegetables or even meats. Shish kabob is nothing if not versatile.

Roll Tide and enjoy.

Side note: If, after the weekend, you read about a missing man in the Talladega National Forest, that would be me, no doubt lost while wandering through the woods trying to find a spot with enough internet signal to run WatchESPN.