Review by Jonathan Estuart
With all this oil spill/disaster/criminal neglect business going on, it’s depressing to see the seafood staples of Louisiana cuisine go scarce. Maybe that is why it’s so comforting to see another southern mainstay, the Texas barbecue, get so much love in Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket (By Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, UT Press, 2009).
Republic of Barbecue is not a cookbook. Instead, it’s a celebration — something New Orleanians know entirely too well — of the religion surrounding Texans and their meats. Starting in Austin, the book takes author Elizabeth Engelhardt and her team of University of Texas students on what looks to be the most delicious adventure across Central Texas. There aren’t many recipes in here, since most of the foods fall under the category of ancient family secrets. Instead, it’s a collection of essays and stories: the former muses on all the traditions surrounding Texas barbeculture and the latter offer a close look at the inner workings of the small business barbecue masters. From an essay on the modern attempts at “green” environmentally-friendly barbecue to the everyday schedule of a typical pit master, this book satisfies the mind and the stomach of anyone who yearns for a good brisket and maybe a side of beans. If anything else, Republic of Barbecue is a fantastic roadmap of barbecue country and the many must see dives and restaurants that any foodie interested in the Texas’ religion of meats should stop at.
Jonathan Estuart is a Tulane student, the Views Editor of the Tulane Hullabaloo, and a SoFAB summer intern.