Monday, August 31, 2009

A Houston Writer Follows The Barbecue Smoke

In "Follow the Smoke" (bright sky press) Houston writer John Demers reveals the continued evolution of Texas barbecue as it forges ahead into the new century, undergoing a melding of flavors, ethnic dishes and marketing to become a modern meal. On the surface it appears that the differences in a Bar-B-Q joint and a barbecue restaurant are all extrinsic, but it's more than just the wood, the rub and the food that sets them apart.

The book sets the backdrop as the storied past of "small scale hands-on Texas barbecue" and the present growth of homegrown chains that are at odds with each other to carry on the taste of Texas.

I don't envy the Houston writer and the amount of barbecue that he had to test, taste and consume to write this barbecue atlas. It had to take at least a ton of food and add to his girth, when you consider the meat and all the sides.

Baked Beans vs Charro Beans

The pages also echo another story. DeMeres points out the arrival of several new kids on the block, that are replacing the favored sidedishes potato salad and baked beans and some of the mainstays, links and chicken. For now, they're found more often in the chain-owned barbecue restaurants than the mom and pop joints; however they are locked in a battle for prominence on the menus. These new dishes, pulled pork topped with coleslaw, charro beans, turkey, smoked chicken salad and boudain, like most Texans, have drifted in from neighboring states and south of the border.

The tasty read is outlined like an atlas. It lists the places where you can find the best smoked brisket, ribs and links by region. DeMers also takes the time to recognize the masters of Texas bbq, the pit-bosses from the North, South, East and West Texas, and enlighten us to why they do what they do, aside from earning a living.

Who's The Pit Boss

The cooks we meet in "Follow The Smoke" aren't as closed mouth and secretive as the old school cooks, I remember, who were reluctant to even share how they lit their fires. This book is testament to how well John Demers, a seasoned Houston writer can elicit recipes, choice of wood and just about any answer he wants from the barbecue pit bosses through smooth conversations like a ninja writer stalking an elusive plot.

Maybe it's a byproduct of the change that today's pit masters like Bobby Flay have instituted. It's almost a norm for cooks to freely share their recipes for smoking meats, choosing wood and cuts of beef and pork. If you're a fan of Texas style barbecue with deep smoke rings, this is one book that won't leave you just wafting the smoke. DeMers throws in a few mouth-watering recipes for meats, sweets, sides and extras, that you can try out. Sphere: Related Content

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