Texas Barbecue: A History Lesson You Can EAT

Texas Barbecue 1

 

What’s inside Jimmy D’s head for this Tuesday?

Well in honor of the recent kickoff of Rodeo Houston 2013 and the LEGENDARY Rodeo Houston Barbecue Cookoff I’d like to gab for a bit on…well…Barbecue.

It’s Texas To The Bone Tuesday!
 
Today’s post could probably just as easily qualify under the “Food Porn Friday” segment title, but given its special significance to all things Texas, you can see why I’m doing it as a TTBT, or you WILL in a minute. 😉
 
Texas Barbecue is a special thing, whether each of its individual components are so special or not. Sure, all that there is to it is a big slab of meat, perhaps a long log of sausage, and a little sauce thrown on each.
 
My own father once dismissively referred to the meal as “a cheap hunk of chuck with some glorified ketchup slathered all over it.”
 
But when you look at it more deeply/esoterically, there is far more going on than that. When you order up a plate of GOOD Texas Barbecue, you’re really ordering a history lesson for your mouth; for Texas Barbecue is as much Texas as…well…Texas is. 😉
 
Blacks TX BBQ 2
 
(No really, that WILL make sense to you, I promise, stay with me 😛 )
 
Everything that one thinks of immediately in their mind when they hear the word “Texas” spoken aloud is embodied in the preparation for, and the history of, Texas barbecue.
 
Be honest now, when you think of Texas, what is the FIRST thing that (normally) pops into your head?
 
Cowboys. open plains. cows, horses, tumbleweeds, open campfires. Beautiful women dressed in revealingly tacky blue and white costumes with fringe and boobies. 😛 😀
 
Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders
Gawwww….d bless Texas! 😛
 
(I suppose Texas Barbecue doesn’t have much to do with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders)
 
But, everything ELSE I just said up there is involved somewhere in Texas History, and by extension, Texas BARBECUE’S history. Really the two are one and the same.
 
You see, back in the mid-late 19th century when the big “Cattle Boom” was just taking off, Texas was of course one of the big hotbeds for ranching and cattle driving from other parts of the west to the stockyards in places close by like Fort Worth, and on to others further away like Kansas City and Chicago.
 
The “engine” that DROVE that whole cattle culture was? right, the Texas cowhand.
 
Campfire cooking
 
Much like today, times were tough economically.  The country was just then recovering from the aftershock of a little something we like to call the Civil War, and so, much like today, people couldn’t always be paid in a huge salary of paper money. Heck, in some parts of the West, they didn’t even take paper money. Real men wanted something solid that they could hold in their hands so they could have something with which to pay the redlight girls in with and hold something ELSE in their hands 
 
Err, nevermind 😛
Point is, they PREFERED to be paid in hard currenc-uhhh…., maybe that’s not helping either, COINS okay? Think like 20 dollar gold pieces. But, not every rancher had a whole lot of those gold pieces and silver dollars lying around, so what’s something else that’s valuable that you could use to pay your loyal cowhands?
 
(Cowboy, believe it or not, wasn’t always a popular term, and could, in some areas, even denote a cattle THIEF! Didn’t know that, didja? )
 
Land? Sure you could pay them in land if you wanted, and no doubt some did. But if you gave out TOO MUCH of your land, you’d end up carving up your whole ranch like some feudal estate. Plus, land was, as they say nowadays, a pretty “big f’ing deal” so that might be a little TOO MUCH payment for just one drive season you know?
,
What you’d really want to do is, pay your employees in something plentiful, replenishable, and something that would make sense for you to liquidate off your sawgrass….HMMMmmmmmm….
 
Hint: it’s what they’re already moving across the country!
 
Duh, CATTLE, SILLY!! 🙂
 
And that’s exactly what many rancher owners did, paid their “boys” in heads of cattle. But of course, you couldn’t hand out your whole herd this way, and not every man who worked on the drive was equal, so some cowhands might get whole steers, some might get less desirable steers, and some just got the meat from steers.
 
Low level common cowpunchers and saddle tramps would often get the cheapest cuts off the steer (because there was WAY more of them, then there were the less expendable guys, like the trail bosses and stuff.)
 
The tougher, fattier portions of the cow were what they got, and how do you make those cuts edible for your  hard-workin’ cowhands? You cook that meat, that brisket, low and slow over a smoky fire…cooking over several hours, until it isn’t so tough, and quite tasty in its charred melted-marbley-fat goodness…
 
In other words, you BARBECUE IT!
 
(Ah, see, NOW it starts to make sense, huh?? 😉 )
 
The sausage that comes with it? Well see, back in the 19th century, one of the biggest immigrant groups to come to Texas were from Germany (then known as Prussia) and Austria. They particularly settled in the heart of cattle country, and who were some of the best known sausage makers then  (and now) in the world?
 
Ze Germans.
 
(Oh there’s a HUGE “German-Texan” contingent here even today. Ever hear of Shiner Bock beer, or Schlitterbaun, Boomhauer? )

Yeah, ze Germans…from Texas! 🙂

A lot of these cattle-driving outfits hired these new German immigrants as low-level cowpunchers or as their chuck wagon cooks…so now that’s why we often have sausage to go with the brisket, and the home-brewed craft BEER to go with both!
 
Campfire cooking chuckwagon

The cattleman culture is also the reason why when you go into many AUTHENTIC Texas Barbecue joints, like for instance at  Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart you aren’t served with a plate, a knife, or a fork, but rather on a large sheet of butcher paper and you eat everything with your hands. You ain’t got no fancy-smancy ol’kinfe’en’fork awwwn the trail buck-o…

Nor any of tha “perfume for ‘yer awwwrmpits” they done call the deodorant neither! You done ea…err you eat what you can, WHEN you can. Hence, why we continue the tradition today in the way we eat our famous barbecue!
In Texas, having a plate of brisket and sausage is more than just eating a meal, it’s ingesting a helping of patriotism and Texas Pride, one bite (or six 😉 ) at a time.
 
Texas Barbecue 2
 
And who but some limp-wristed vegan-Bohemian ladyboy wouldn’t love that? 😉
 
Eat up some Texas Barbecue son, and stop “them ribs and backbone bumpin’ “ already, will you?
 
Is always up for seconds, thirdsies, and fourthies, of Texas Pride, because HE’S a true patriot,
 
J. Devious, ESQ.
 
 
 
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