We heard about Cyndi for the first time when we interviewed Wilfred Reinke about his blog Oshawa Ogre’s Views, News & BBQ’s. He told us that he considers Cyndi Allison to be a mentor and the person who gave him the passion to write. We just had to check her out. Cyndi is responsible for Barbecue Master and Yes You Can Grill. We learned quite a bit talking to Cyndi, particularly how fun she is, how much she loves BBQ and how quickly she can remind all of us that cooking is supposed to be just that, FUN.
FriendsEAT: Where did you grow up?
Cyndi Allison: I am still working on “growing up” and have lived a lot of places including Greece and Japan. I spent more years in North Carolina than anywhere else.
FE: What inspired you to start a food blog?
CA: The editor for an online food magazine I worked with asked me to start a blog. The food magazine went belly up. The blog lives on.
FE: What field of food does your blog focus on and why?
CA: I write about grilling and barbecue. I have sons, and they do not think cooking is fun. They have not figured out that grilling is cooking, so let’s just not tell them. It’s good to have help and even better when the helps thinks it’s a party and not a chore.
FE: What is a typical day in your life like?
CA: We do not have typical days here at my house.
I get up and go teach at the college during the week, unless we’re on break. I do have classes at specific times, but I work with the college student newspaper, so I never know what will be going on with that. One son is now in college and the other a senior in high school. They are out and about doing all manner of stuff, but they always head home. It may be the grilled food, but I know where they are and know what they are doing – most of the time.
At night and on weekends and during stray moments, I am writing. I’ve been freelance writing seriously for about 20 years and 10 of those online. I do some corporate and tech writing. My web site Yes You Can Grill and my Barbecue Master blog are my personal spaces where I relax and have fun.
FE: What was your childhood kitchen like?
CA: Well, it was clean. My Mom really did not like to cook which I did not figure out until I was older. We lived out in the country, so most meals were made at home and from scratch. But, the general approach was to turn the oven to high, throw the food in, and eat it when it was done and hopefully not burned.
I was banned from the kitchen, because I caught the toaster on fire when I was supposed to make Pop Tarts. I slipped off to the den to watch cartoons, and a Pop Tart corner got caught. After a while, stuck Pop Tarts burst into flames. After that, I was the designtaed dishwasher.
FE: What is your kitchen like now?
CA: My porches are my main kitchens, although I do a lot of Southern soul food cooking inside too. At the moment, I have two grills on the front porch, one on the side porch, and 8 on the back porch. There are 5 or 6 smaller grills in the basement that I rotate. I have charcoal, gas, and electric grills as well as barbecue smokers.
Yes. The neighbors probably do think I’m nuts. I usually don’t explain why I have so many grills all around my house, and most people in the South are too polite to ask about strange habits.
FE: What type of people read your blog?
CA: “Your guess is as good as mine. I get a lot of Google direct traffic. Based on comments and emails, I think that I have more male readers. Then again, maybe the guys just want my phone number.
Naw. Really, I have great readers, and they send me ideas and tips and let me know when I make typos.
A few Barbecue Master readers think I run a 24 hour hotline though. I get some SOS comments and emails. If it’s the middle of the night EST, then guess what – I am probably asleep? If I’m online, I often do respond in minutes though.
Sorry if you burned your butt at 3 a.m. Probably need to cut the vents back a bit and have another beer.
FE: What comes to mind when you hear the word bacon?
CA: Bacon. YUM! Wrap it in bacon, and it will taste fabulous. I bacon wrap and weave all sorts of stuff on the grill. Do not tell my doctor. I told him that I was steaming fish and broccoli these days (which reminds me that they might be good wrapped in bacon – now on the to-do list).
FE: What is your favorite restaurant and why?
CA: I love Haps hot dogs in Salisbury, NC. They just have hot dogs and burgers with Cheerwine soda in the glass bottles. You stand up or maybe get lucky and get the one bench out front. Hours are limited – lunch only. That chili they put on the dogs and burgers rocks, and I have not been able to come close to matching it. I will some day – still working on that while still grabbing a Haps dog now and then.
FE: What is your favorite ingredient and why?
CA: Meat. I grill. I can grill basically anything, but meat is king on the grill. Also, my boys are meat eaters. When the older one was a kid he told the neighbor we were having a cook out. “But we don’t have no meat,” he said. The neighbor was concerned that we were out of money and food and dropped over to find that I was grilling shrimp. Caleb (older son) does even count seafood except for maybe crab legs.
FE: What is your opinion of the current state of Foodtertainment?
CA: I enjoy watching some of the food/cooking reality shows, but I’d never want to be on one. If Gordon Ramsay called me a donkey or worse, I would have a Southern belle melt down. He would meet his match I think.
Some of the how-to shows are okay, but that Rachel is sure annoying. I wish they had TV cooks like Betty Feezor and Julia Child on there. They looked like real cooks, and their recipes rocked.
And, seriously, I do not want to be a chef. I play with food for friends and family. Doing it for pay would suck the fun right out of it. So, I skim some of the food TV stuff, but I’m not a TV junkie period. Give me a good cookbook to read, and yes I do literally read cookbooks.
FE: What do you think is the future of food blogging in the next 5 years?
CA: Over the next five years, I think most of the small time food bloggers will disappear off the map in terms of search. And, that’s sad. Corporate has taken over blogging. Even the flipping TV weatherman has a blog. Google (the current search engine god) favors high output over quality and heart, so there you go.
I think little food blogs will stay up and more will pop up, but they will not turn a profit (or even break even). So, the food bloggers who hang in will need to have a passion for doing it. So, bookmark, follow and keep up with the little food guys and girls. They are way more fun than the slick ones that are all about turning a buck.
FE: Would you like to give a shout out to the best joint that no one has heard about?
CA: I’d have to say that Keaton’s barbecue listed in Cleveland, NC but really out in cow country off I40 on 64 Cool Springs exit near Winston Salem is best sleeper spot. They have barbe-fried chicken that will knock your socks off. You will think you are lost if you go looking for Keaton’s (even when you are not), but you will sure get some great chicken. They do have rules though. “”In God we trust. All others must pay at the counter,”” says one sign. They also have a note to put your sweet tea pitcher back over on the cart. It’s the Southern way. Mind your manners or leave. End of discussion.
FE: What do you think is the most important issue facing foodies today?
CA: Well, I must say that a lot of “foodies” take themselves way too seriously. That is probably the biggest challenge. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie even though I can grill and cook gourmet. I do salt block grilling and some kick it smoked cheese. But, if I billed myself as a foodie, all my buddies would go to another party, because they would be afraid I’d put one bite of food on the plate and artfully drizzle sometyhing strange all around the plate. Around here, that would not fly. So, I’m just a girl with a grill, and I happen to rock it. So, yehaw, come on over and grub. Around here, it’s just good eating and a good time.