The Florida restaurant had St. Louis ribs on the menu. I had no idea our ribs were special.
I ordered St. Louis ribs and got a plate of plain old ribs with Texas toast. What was St. Louis about that?
It was time for some bone-deep research. Experts say St. Louis ribs are about the cut of the meat. St. Louis ribs, or spare ribs, come from the rib section of the pig. Canadian, or baby back ribs, come from the loin, or the back.
Most barbecue chefs recommend St. Louis ribs because they are meatier.
That I understood. But then some chef said it took six hours to smoke St. Louis ribs. That never happened at our picnics. Barbecues in my neighborhood were usually a race to see who got more beer – the chef or the sauce. After six hours, the chef would have passed out and the ribs would be charcoal.
A real St. Louis barbecue has to have two kinds of potato salad, mayonnaise and German – plus three-bean salad and sliced watermelon, so the kids could spit seeds at each other. It ended with a big gooey cake and maybe ice cream. Some health nut usually brought sliced tomatoes, which we ignored.
My family preferred pork steaks. They taste almost like ribs, except they have more meat, and they can be grilled in about one six-pack. They’re also neater to eat.
They’re the seedless grapes of the barbecue world.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.