It's summer and the barbecue is blazing. While waiting for the coals to get just right in that backyard mainstay, you may want to relax with Rick Browne and Jack Bettridge's "Barbecue America: A Pilgrimage in Search of America's Best Barbecue" ($25, Time-Life Books, 1999).
Browne and Bettridge's ode to everything 'Q, as they put it, has homespun and exotic recipes from around the country, but that's not its only big plus. This 216-page book is rich in the history of barbecuing and all sorts of arcane facts.
The authors tell us that barbecuing probably originated in the Caribbean when it was called "babracot" by smoke-and-sauce happy natives. Spanish conquistadors, quick to recognize a good thing, co-opted the style and spread it all over as they pillaged from spot to spot.
Well, that's the legend, anyway.
There's also a list of barbecue joints throughout the U.S. considered the tops by these discriminating guys. There aren't any Orange County or even Southern California mentions, but look how they describe Memphis Minnie's in San Francisco's Mission District:
This "restaurant/take-out provides real barbecue [that] melts in your mouth, tastes like angels added the smoke, and causes local traffic jams."
I'm convinced. Put me down for a double order.
THE WEB: Birds of Feather Flock to Site
Lawn and garden ornaments are pretty splashy these days (everything from shining orbs-on-a-pedestal to very expensive stone sculptures) but a kitschy favorite on the cheap side remains the pink flamingo.
There are more online tributes to this tacky bit of Americana than you'd think, and one of the most obsessive is "On Stagnant Pond: A CyberSalute to the Pink Flamingo" (http://www.ospsitecrafters.com /homepond.html). The site begins with the grateful acknowledgment that "not since the chia pet has one plastic animal done so much for so many for so little in return" and goes spiraling out of control from there.
The notion here is that this decoration is a decided under-achiever. Hit the "Phlamingo Philosophy" link to be inspired by aphorisms such as "If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried."
From there, it's a pictorial jaunt to beloved pink flamingos from coast to coast. You'll find wacky fans who have attached flamingos to racing cars, filmed them in uncompromising positions in the bedroom and taken more scholarly ones on tours of major universities, with pictures to prove it.
It's all very stupid, but the Lycos search engine claims "On Stagnant Pond" is one of the most popular Net sites, in the top 5%. It even offers advice if you're a flamingo devotee who has yet to come flapping out of the closet.
"Don't worry about your neighbors' reaction to your efforts [with flamingos]. They'll get used to it," the site reassures.
* To have a book or Web site considered for this column, send information to: Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Mark Chalon Smith can also be reached by e-mail at mark.smith@ latimes.com.