Yesterday, I smoked a brisket, an eleven-plus pound beast that barely fit in the little electric smoker. In days gone by, I would have spent the entire day burning mesquite logs to heat the heavy steel firebox of an offset smoker. But yesterday, I entered an electronic temperature setting and loaded mesquite chips every few hours until a digital thermometer signaled me that the desired internal temperature of the meat had been reached. Though the old style was more difficult and time-consuming, it yielded better flavor and a greater sense of accomplishment. The flavor of yesterday’s endeavor was very good, just not as good as the meat that resulted from the more involved process. But that may not be true. Expending considerable effort sometimes enhances its own rewards; I can’t compare two briskets, prepared by different methods, side-by-side.

The effort involved in the “old style” of smoking a brisket would have engaged my mind in a way yesterday’s did not. That’s not true, either. My mind would not have been engaged. It would have been otherwise directed. Maybe sedated is the word. My thoughts would have been muffled beneath a layer of internal directions to perform repetitive mechanical tasks. Anesthesia by routine. Instead, the wonders of modern technology enabled me to smoke a brisket, cook a pot of beans, and pickle the beets to accompany the meal with little effort, leaving me plenty of time to dwell on economic turmoil, physical challenges, mental distress, and personal failings. Luddism has its benefits.

I’ve been up almost three-quarters of an  hour. I wish I could go back to sleep, but that’s not in the cards. It’s approaching 4:40. I am not in the mood to write, nor read, nor think. I would like to simply empty my mind and sleep, but I cannot shut off the switch that keeps thoughts racing through my brain. My mind is in mania mode. Now may be a good time to watch another episode of The Good Fight.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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