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Father-son barbecue team heats things up
In the seven years that Raymond Miles, left, and his son Cody have been touring the barbecue competition circuit, they've wracked up some pretty tall prizes and pretty good recipes. They are looking forward to this weekend's pig cooking contest at the Spencer-Penn Centre.
When Raymond Miles starts cooking, he goes “Whole Hog.”
Miles, 62, of Bassett, has been a competitive hog cooker for seven years. His team, Whole Hog or None Cooking Team, has taken part in competitions up and down the East Coast, coming in as high as second place.
About seven years ago, Miles said, he heard an ad on the radio for a barbecue cookoff in Mount Airy, N.C. On a whim, he entered the contest, rigged up a smoker, grabbed his then-7-year-old son Cody and hit the road. Miles didn’t win that contest, “but I wasn’t last!” he recalled with a laugh.
Since that first competition, he and Cody, now 15, have competed in about six contests a year. They even finished 14th out of 84 contestants at a contest in Newport, N.C., which Miles said is considered the largest such competition in the United States.
In the beginning, Miles learned by trial and error, often reading all the barbecue books and magazines he could get his hands on. He used the Internet to find recipes, then set about making a sauce to suit him.
“There’s a real fine line between the spicy and the sweet” in a barbecue sauce, Miles said, and barbecue judges are particular in that they don’t want too much sweetness or too much spice. Miles started with a basic barbecue sauce recipe and tweaked it to come up with his competition sauce.
By coming up with his own sauce and cooking whole pigs, Miles has come a long way in his cooking since his earlier days.
“I couldn’t boil water before I was married,” he quipped. The only cooking he did early on was with the Boy Scouts, or making hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. “Pretty much outdoor-type cooking stuff” was what he preferred, he said.
Now, Miles cooks for his hunting club and hunting safety classes. Although he lets wife Louise, a nurse at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, do most of the cooking at home, he does like to cook breakfast. His breakfasts include biscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage, country ham and fried apples.
Perhaps the ultimate feather in Miles’ cap is that “my mother-in-law likes my slaw better than anything she’s ever eaten,” he said.
Miles makes the slaw and baked beans to serve with barbecue that he cooks at home, not at competitions.
Cody even has his own competitive cooking team now, said Miles. He and Cody have competed in the same contests, and once Miles came in second, narrowly nudging Cody to third.
Although Cody and Miles are the cookers, some of their other family members also help. Miles’ other children are Jeff, a lieutenant in the Navy, stationed in Virginia Beach, and Brooke of Bassett. He has five grandchildren.
“It’s pretty much a family-oriented thing,” Miles explained of the cooking competitions.
This week, both the Miles men are preparing for Saturday’s “Pig Cookin’ Contest” at the Spencer-Penn Centre. Miles said he is glad that the center will host a competition because he has wished for one to be held locally for a long time. Each team will receive a whole pig that must be prepared by judging time.
Miles, who works as a service manager at Old Dominion Truck Leasing, said it takes one hour to prepare a pig for cooking, then eight or nine hours of cooking time to get it fully cooked. The average weight of the pig is 100-125 pounds.
After the judging, the barbecue will be pulled apart, chopped and sold to people at the event, which will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition to the barbecue, the event will feature entertainment by the Old Dominion Cloggers and Dehart Dance Theater, and music by Les Moore, Two Young Two Old, Mismash Trio, and Over the Hill Gang. There also will be an antique tractor and car show.