Opinion » Maxed Out

Weekend of the Holy Trinity

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That's because barbeque, real barbeque, especially competition barbeque, takes time. Lots and lots of time. Barbeque takes so much time it makes the rest of what passes for Slow Food look like takeout at the Grease 'n' Go.

Like most good things, barbeque was transformed through migration. Even within what's generally considered the barbeque belt — the states bordered on the north by Tennessee and North Carolina and on the west by Louisiana and Arkansas — a good argument can be had over the proper ingredients of barbeque sauce and an even better argument, a fight even, can be sparked by mention of appropriate side dishes one may or may not serve with barbeque. Don't ask me how I know. While noteworthy, such spirited contention is not unusual since almost any subject can start an argument or fight in those states.

One of the first places barbeque traveled was to Texas. Texans, being a prideful, boastful bunch, will, given half a chance, take credit for perfecting if not inventing barbeque... and pretty much anything else they think they can get away with.

Texas's primary contribution to barbeque was the addition of beef and greasy sausage. Texans are very proud of this fact, as they are of most things, but people whose tastebuds are still functioning can only wonder why. It is not entirely without justification that most carnivores consider the brisket of a bovine suitable only for corned beef, pastrami or La Belle Province's contribution, smoked meat. Texans, however, have based their entire claim to barbeque on that mean cut of meat and the atrocities the state's German immigrants committed against it. Well, that and their sick joke of smoking with mesquite wood, a subject about which I shall say no more except to give them credit for pulling it off.

If you grew up outside the insular confines of the barbeque belt or Texas, what you likely consider barbeque probably owes more to the special imprimatur given the cuisine in Kansas City, Missouri. It is generally settled that KC barbeque was first cooked by Henry Perry some time around the turn of the last century. What Henry started, Arthur Bryant, George Gates and Otis Boyd perfected. Their slow smoking technique, sweet, tangy tomato-based sauce, vegetable-free menus and inexplicable penchant for commercial white bread have clogged arteries for generations, sending many a patron to the sweet hereafter regretting only the very high probability there is no barbeque in either heaven or hell, and prompting the great American writer Calvin Trillin to declare Bryant's simply the best restaurant in the world.

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