In Texas, barbecue is a way of life. Whether the word simply means a backyard get-together with friends and family, or it’s waiting in line for six hours outside Franklin Barbecue, Texas barbecue always means togetherness. There’s just something about eating from a plastic tray covered in parchment paper piled high with more smoked meat than your heart can handle.
In this fantastic short documentary, called “Central Texas Barbecue” by Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker, they ventured deep into the heart of Texas to learn what defines the spirit of Hill Country barbecue. What they found were five smokehouses and barbecue joints, each decades old, that told a similar story across the board: barbecue is about family.
Kreuz Market (est. 1900), Black’s Barbecue (est. 1932), Taylor Café (est. 1948), Louie Mueller Barbecue (est. 1949), and Davis Grocery & Bar-B-Q are featured in the short documentary and speak to the best of not only Texas tradition, but American tradition. Barbecue markets, in Texas at least, have been gathering places for a century now and are a regular stop for most church-going families, immediate and extended.
What barbecue also speaks to, however, is the idea that Southern cooking, in some way or another, has always been about gathering and about family. The term ‘hospitality’ is often attached to food service, but it predates that basic concept. A hospitable host welcomes people into their home and gains family by the end of the visit. Hospitality is the crux of cooking traditions in this country where neighbors open their arms, and kitchens, to neighbors to share in traditions that have been passed from generation to generation.
A central Texas barbecue market is where families, friends, and strangers gather with utmost respect and appreciation for the food that they are about to eat because it has been labored over and perfected. And isn’t that, really, what every American food tradition is about?