Don’t Mess with Texxas [sic]

In case you haven’t heard, Texas Monthly magazine has hired its first barbecue editor, the only such position in the nation, or so they say.  Media from far and wide have covered the news, with the coverage perhaps highlighted by a reverent piece in Texans’ favorite local rag, the New York Times.

With Texas Monthly’s decision, Daniel Vaughn–aka @BBQSnob of the Full Custom Gospel Barbecue blog–instantly became the envy of millions of red-blooded, meat-eating Americans (and probably more than a handful of New Yorkers too).  How does the barbecue editor job compare with other enviable positions?  Working at an architecture firm? Cool, but Vaughn left that gig for Texas Monthly.  Founding your own start-up, Facebook?  Lots of press but a money loser in the long run (wait for it, you’ll see).  POTUS?  Too much stress and too little time eating.  You get the picture: this is a pretty good gig and if the job doesn’t cause Vaughn a coronary then he may well be the luckiest man on the face of this earth since Lou Gehrig himself.

The NYT article notes that Vaughn will be, “the only full-time barbecue critic on the staff of a major newspaper or magazine” in the country.  Surely true, but redolent of Texan braggadocio.  If Texas Monthly elevated BBQ writing to celebrity status, then North Carolina certainly deserves credit for starting the world down this path.  See the well-articulated details on the North Carolina Miscellany blog.  Among the blog post’s best points: “Not to pick on our friends in Texas, but the barbecue editor position at Texas Monthly, at least as described by the Times, sounds more like a barbecue critic, charged with seeking out and reviewing restaurants around the state. In other words, the same thing that Bob Garner has been doing for WUNC-TV and in print for nearly twenty years.”  And thus, as with the origin of barbecue itself, North Carolina led the way.

Greenberg’s Smoked Turkeys

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to get serious about finding the perfect bird.  I’ve grown fond of smoking my own turkey over the past few years.  Smoking a turkey doesn’t take much longer than oven roasting, the meat comes out moister and more flavorful, and the oven stays free for everything else.  Plus, you’re a lot less likely to set your house on fire than cooking the bird in a deep fryer.  (And if you do set your house on fire, at least you’ll add a wonderful hickory smoke aroma in the process.)

If you want the taste of home-smoked turkey without the effort, I have heard rave reviews of Greenberg’s Smoked Turkeys.  These birds are smoked in East Texas and shipped to your doorstep, wherever that may be.  Now, I know North Carolina barbecue fans like myself are supposed to be suspicious of Texan barbecue but with a name like Greenberg, I think I’ve discovered a fellow BBQ Jew…

Texas’ BBQ Jew?

It looks like Porky LeSwine may have a new best friend, or perhaps arch-enemy.  The Editor of Texas Monthly Magazine is one Jake Silverstein (a Jewish name if there ever was one), and the latest issue of his magazine is all about barbecue.  Texas barbecue, that is.
http://www.myfoxaustin.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=11212

Texas Monthly’s Barbecue Issue: MyFoxAUSTIN.com

Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin

It’s sacrilege for me to write what I’m about to write, but sometimes sacrilege is inevitable on a site called BBQJew.com.  So please don’t hate me for admitting that, if there is such a thing as reincarnation ( and I’m waiting on BBQHindu.com for the answer to that question), I hope to be reincarnated as a Texas pitmaster.  Or at least a Texan.

North Carolina whole hog cooking is the nation’s original barbecue and when done right is probably the most perfect food anywhere, but even I must admit that present day Texas is the superior barbecue state.  Whereas wood cooking is all but extinct in North Carolina, with only a few dozen traditional pit-cookers still in existence, in Texas traditional cooking methods remain commonplace.  Perhaps because barbecue is part of Texans’ sometimes over-the-top self-identity, traditional cooking techniques and recipes remain important to Texas culture in a way that is not matched in the Tar Heel state.  For every terrific traditional wood-burning pit in North Caroina, Texas can claim several.  For every whole hog or pork shoulder pit-cooked in Carolina today, Texans probably smoked 50 times that much meat.  Lucky for us Carolinians, Texas’ rich barbecue culture is documented efficiently, if sometimes formulaicly, in Gloria Corral’s Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin.

Corral admits upfront that she is a newcomer to Texas, but she approaches her new state of residence with wide-eyed enthusiasm and a giant appetite (after all, everything is bigger in Texas).  Sometimes it takes an outsider–free of long-established biases–to fairly judge barbecue with an open mind and an eager stomach.

Through her guide book, Corral sets out to find barbecue anywhere and everywhere she can in Austin and the surrounding Hill Country, an area that is chock full of deservedly famous barbecue joints.  As Corral writes in her introduction, “The Austin area is known as the Central Texas Barbecue Belt.  It became clear to me that this food needed more than casual investigation, so I signed up for an Austin public library card and dug in.”

Thankfully, Corral also dug into her work beyond the confines of the library, diligently eating her way through the brisket, ribs, sausage and other smoked delicacies of the Hill Country.  In total, the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin details Corral’s visits to about 75 Austin-area barbecue joints, including some that most barbecue fanatics have heard of and many that are more obscure.  She does a fine, workman-like job of describing the atmosphere and food of each joint, in the process heaping praise on her favorite joints while refraining from badmouthing those joints that are less than sublime.

This is Corral’s first book and its prose is not as polished as that of more seasoned writers.  Still, the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin does a good job of fulfilling its promise: it serves as a succinct, practical guide to many of the barbecue joints of the Hill Country.   The fact that I salivate every time I crack open the book is evidence enough that her book is worth buying for your next trip to the area.  I am certainly eager to travel to Austin and test out the guide for myself; hopefully prior to discovering whether reincarnation exists.

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