Unlike most other monarchs, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig were not born into royalty. These Kansas City women earned the right to call themselves The BBQ Queens fair and square. After a chauvinistic local DJ dared to say women couldn't barbecue, Adler and Fertig called his bluff with a battle-of-the-sexes grill-a-thon for charity. "We got our outfits together and we decided to be the 'Cue Queens. We bought these bad dime-store tiaras, and someone made beauty-queen sashes for us, and we bottled and sold our barbecue sauce that we named öLove Potion for the Swine,' since we were doing ribs," Fertig recalls. "We had three battle-of-the-sexes contests. After the second time that the guys lost, they didn't want to do it anymore," laughs Fertig.
The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue doesn't feature only slow-cooked food made exclusively for carnivores. "I think that's the difference when women are at the smoker. Women tend to think more along the lines of, Okay, we're having the steak, but what else are we having? We think a little bit more holistically about the whole meal, making sure everyone's eating their vegetables," she says. Her Independence Day menu includes flank steak and grilled caesar salad with homemade dressing and fresh Parmesan cheese. Fertig cuts romaine lettuce lengthwise into four pieces, brushes the cut sides with olive oil, and grills the leafy greens until they sizzle. "It's kind of a knife-and-fork caesar salad, but it's really good," assures Queen Fertig. At today's cooking demonstration, you can learn recipes for grilled vegetables, fish, and steak, as well as the subtle nuances of the four queen waves. "They're like calisthenics for BBQ Queens," says Fertig. "But really, it's for men too. Because we've found that fame comes upon you unawares, and it's always good to know how to behave. It's kind of a life skill."