Thursday, March 26, 2009

BBQ Book Review - Texas BBQ

Title: Texas BBQ : Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden
Author: Wyatt McSpadden
Published: 2009 by University of Texas Press

Wyatt McSpadden
is a native Texan who has spent two decades traveling the back roads of Texas BBQ. He has been a regular contributor to Texas Monthly, most notably in their past "The Top 50 Joints in Texas" editions. This new book is a collection of evocative photos from 30 of the best BBQ joints in the state. The photos are the star here, but the book also includes some great background writing by the likes of Jim Harrison and fellow Texan, John Morthland. Wyatt was kind enough to share some photos, including a few exclusives that didn't make the book.

All photos ©Wyatt McSpadden

The joints profiled here have an aged quality, that Wyatt captures beautifully through the lens. Both the history of these joints, and the advanced age of their proprietors is highlighted in the writings. Jim Harrison must have had the Prophets of Smoked Meat on his mind when he wrote "many of the photos are somber enough to make you re-think food as a sacrament and those who man the barbecue pit as priests of a holy substance". Baptize me, already! In addition, some insightful quotations are gleaned from the curmudgeonly pit masters, including this one from Steve Kapchinskie, pitmaster at Martin's Place in Bryan. "You can't just throw meat in an oven and come back 24 hours later. You gotta sweat...You can't be lazy if you want real Texas barbecue, you gotta do the work".

A short history of Texas BBQ and its hard-working characters is included in an essay by John Morthland at the close of the book. John echoes the sentiments of this blog when he discusses the use of gas-fired pits that produce the same batches of meat every time. He explains "those 'exact same results' lack the deep, smoky, primal flavor of real barbecue - in fact, the stuff tastes suspiciously of roast beef." If you are a fan of well smoked meat for any reason, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book (you can see a brief preview here). It's sure to be the genesis of many future road trips for this BBQ fanatic.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.