Writer’s Block: Fire Up the Grill

Port Isabel-South Padre Press


Is there anything more quintessentially Texan than firing up a grill and slowly smoking various kinds and cuts of meat to savory, juicy perfection? I think not.

We are known for our briskets and fajitas and chickens and sausages. We are known for our secret barbecue sauce recipes and dry rubs. We are known for meats carefully infused with the scents of mesquite, hickory, applewood and pecan. The Texan penchant for pits has even made it to pop culture, such as the popular animated television series, King of the Hill (though, I disagree with Hank Hill. Pits should be fueled by freshly chopped wood, or charcoal at the very least, not propane tanks).

Put simply, Texan barbecue has become part of the zeitgeist.

Texas Monthly devotes an entire issue of their magazine every spring to the top 50 barbecue joints around the state. Several restaurants right here in the Rio Grande Valley have earned that coveted honor, including the only place in the state where you’ll find barbacoa cooked the traditional way: smoking overnight for hours in the darkness of an earthen pit fired by “leña de mesquite” or mesquite wood. Then there’s the Original Willy’s BBQ in Alamo, or Rio Grande Grill in Harlingen.

There are others around here, as well. The list changes a bit from year to year, but one thing is clear: we Texans love our barbecue. And we get creative with it. It’s not just brisket, chicken quarters or fajitas we sear on those metal racks. We’ll barbecue fish, shrimp, beef ribs and spare ribs. We’ll barbecue vegetables like corn and asparagus and squash. We’ll even balance a metal pot on a barbecue rack to make some impromptu campfire-style beans. If it can be cooked, we’ll barbecue it.

And so, it was fairly unsurprising that almost every time I took a peek at Facebook these past few days, my timeline was littered with so many photos of barbecue pits and smoked meat. Sure, everyone may have been celebrating Independence Day and the long weekend, but we Texans need few excuses to fire up the grill.

I, myself, enjoyed an early Fourth of July BBQ with my family on Monday. Dad, our pit master, cooked up some fresh corn on the cob, fajitas, quarter legs, summer sausage, spare ribs and mollejas which had been seasoned and prepared by mom. Mom also whipped up some Spanish rice, charro beans, potato salad and guacamole. To slake our thirst while we consumed the extravagant meal, Mom had brewed some sweet tea. Dinner was capped off with a slice homemade pineapple upside down cake.

It was a feast fit for royalty. We filled our plates, then quickly filled our stomachs. I snapped a photo of the meal, which couldn’t be contained in one plate, but instead lay on several dishes in a spread before me. Spurred only a little by a sense of mischievousness, I sent the photo to a few out-of-state friends who have the misfortune of not being surrounded by such culinary riches as we Texans are. Hot dogs and hamburgers can’t hold a candle to a barbecue done Lone Star style, after all.

All in all, it was spectacular. And I enjoyed seeing what the rest of my family and friends chose to barbecue this weekend, too. I’m sure the photos will keep coming as summer continues. I look forward to it. I can already hear my stomach rumbling once again.

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