FOOD, SCHMOOD –WHAT ABOUT BARBECUE?
While Austinites certainly have an appreciation for all things edible,
they’re obsessive about barbecue. That’s because in Texas, beef is king.
And its rulers and subjects are mostly located right here in Central Texas.
In fact, the brisket, a cut that is the cornerstone of the Texas tradition,
owes its status to the long cattle drives of that bygone era – and to the
creative culinary genius of multiple Texas barbecue masters. Considered tough and almost worthless in the beginning, it’s
what was left over after the so-called prime cuts
had been taken. Other meat staples in a
true Texas barbecue include sausage
(normally made from beef) and pork
ribs, an import from the Midwest.
Texas barbecue can even be
broken down by region. In
west Texas, the meat is
cooked using direct heat
with mesquite wood, an
approach also seen in
Arizona and New Mexico.
In eastern Texas, beef is
often slow-cooked over
hickory after marinating in
a tomato sauce. And here in
Central Texas, meat is often
dry-rubbed with spices and
cooked using indirect heat over
either oak, pecan or mesquite. The
South Texas style features thick sauces,
normally with a molasses base.
WHO NEEDS A PLATE? ORDER UP!
When it comes to ordering barbecue, Texans have their own style
there, too. Most places serve beef ribs, brisket, chicken and pork ribs
by the pound, or by the link for sausage, and forgo plates – instead
choosing to serve meats on plain white butcher paper.
Typical side dishes and drinks here in the Lone Star state include
pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, creamed corn, pickles, onions,
jalapenos, cold beer, iced tea, lemonade – and, of course, plenty of
slices of plain white bread.
As for the sauce, it’s generally an optional thing – and some Central
YOU SAY TOMATO…
Texas barbecue institutions don’t offer sauce at all. That’s because the
emphasis is on the meat, not necessarily the sauce. Roll it up in a slice of
white bread, add pickles, onions and maybe some coleslaw on top, and
it’s like heaven on earth.
According to the National Barbecue Association, the three
essential elements of barbecue are good meat; the process of
slow cooking at a low temperature; and the fuel used for heat
and flavor. This is not the backyard style barbecue where Mom
or Dad fires up the gas or charcoal grill. At its heart, barbecue
is slow cooking, using cuts of meat that, in the
past, were considered inferior – until super
slow cooking for hours at a time turned
them into something worth savoring
The native peoples of the
Caribbean, who used a combination of low heat, wood
smoke and sun to preserve
their meat, first practiced
what we know as barbecue
at the time Columbus
discovered the New World.
Known first as “barbacoa,”
it made its way to the mainland where it diversified, both
in location and style.
Now? It’s an art form – and it varies
from state to state, region to region,
and neighbor to neighbor. From the pulled
pork of the Carolinas to the heavy sauciness of
Kansas City to the sweetness of Memphis, barbecue –
and the way it’s cooked – is a varied culinary tradition whose rules
are based mainly on location and what Grandpa did. Pork or pork
sausage are a barbecue stalwart, especially in the southeastern
United States. And it’s not surprising to find very expensive
smokers cooking up brisket, sausage, ham, turkey and more, for
a crowd at a University of Texas tailgate party (and at every other
college football game in Texas).
ROAD TRIP: NO FORKS NECESSARY
Clearly, the best way to experience this mouth-watering culinary experience is to take a road trip and try it all. Because we’re famous for this
stuff, especially here in Central Texas – and those who live here know
all too well what a gift it is to experience it when the craving strikes.
And it will. Over and over again.