UPDATED at 9:37 a.m. on May 16, 2018: This story was originally published in June 2016, but we're bringing it back to celebrate National BBQ Day.
Remember earlier this year when some foolish blogger decided to start a breakfast taco war between Austin, San Antonio and the RGV?
The author of this declaration of meat war, Atlanta-based writer Chris Fuhrmeister, claims that the only kind of dish that should be considered barbecue is pork meat smoked on wood charcoals. He comes from a Deep South perspective, where he's used to pulled pork and whole hog roasts. For that, we can forgive him.
He also makes the argument that a cookout of hamburgers and hot dogs should never be described as a barbecue. We can cede that point. Yankees who send invites to a Memorial Day "barbecue" with a Weber grill and a few charcoals deserve nothing more than an eye roll and a trip to Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum to experience real smoked meat.
But Fuhrmeister's wholesale rejection of brisket as proper barbecue is, as we like to say, fightin' words. The agrarian South may have deep roots in pig...well, you know... but our cattle-raising ancestry is just as strong.
He suggests that because of a historical tradition of slow-cooked pig meat in the plantation South, the cowboy tradition in Texas is somehow invalid. We've been cooking beef just as long, sir. The first Texas pitmaster was serving smoked meats commercially as early as 1878 in Bastrop. The practice of smoking leftover brisket for private meals dates back much longer.
Besides, anyone can raise pigs, it takes Texas swagger to raise a herd of cattle. Just ask Gus McCrae.
The writer claims pork "just tastes better." That's "just" false. Dry, flavorless pulled pork has to be served slathered in sugary sauce to make it edible. A good brisket is served without sauce and is just as moist and tasty as whatever y'all are serving in Memphis.
Fuhrmeister cites James Beard Award-winning Mississippi chef John Currence to back up his point. "I mean, pig and burned wood charcoal, and that, to me, is it," Currence says in the Eater article. "If you don't have both of those things, to my mind, you don't have what constitutes barbecue."
Well, sir, we have our own James Beard Award-winning chef in the great city of Austin. Aaron Franklin serves some of the best barbecue in the world. Spoiler alert: It's beef brisket.
Fuhrmeister says that the buzz around Franklin's new, delicious, hipster-friendly brisket somehow dulls the word "barbecue." He's wrong. Franklin's brisket has re-energized the already long and storied tradition of Texas meat markets serving smoked beef.
I feel sorry for Fuhrmeister, I really do. He says he's had some bad brisket experiences in the past, and that can be hard to get over. (Heat-lamp-toasted Dickey's, anyone?) But he claims to have tried a good cut of barbecue brisket in New York City(?!), and said it "stopped me in my tracks."
I invite Fuhrmeister to come to Texas sometime. It's only a hop, skip, and a jump from Atlanta to Austin, where we can hit up some of the new spots like Franklin's joint and la Barbecue. Then, we can drive out of the city, where he can learn the history of our regional delicacy, meet some of the old pitmasters at Kreuz Market, Louie Mueller Barbecue and Snow's BBQ and hopefully come away with a more nuanced appreciation of everything smoked meats have to offer.
In the meantime, Carolinians can have the other white meat. We'll stick to beef, thank ya kindly.