Book Review: Texas BBQ: Small Town to Downtown
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Oct. 26, 2018
A picture is worth, they say, a thousand words. So how can I, in only about 300 words, possibly convey to you the power of the dozens and dozens of full-color images burning from the glossy oversized pages of Wyatt McSpadden's Texas BBQ: Small Town to Downtown?
Math is hard, they also say, but then so is barbecue – if you're doing it right. And McSpadden's magisterial lens captures all the myriad aspects of that right and relentless doing. The pits ablaze with early-hours carnivore alchemy, the fires stoked from stacks of oak and mesquite, the smoke-tinted depths of experience seared into the faces of the pitmasters and all who work with the expertly butchered flesh of cows and pigs and more toward some moist, heat-catalyzed apotheosis of flavor and sustenance.
McSpadden, whose latest coffeetable-worthy volume is the follow-up to his acclaimed Texas BBQ debut, goes deep into the state's small-town and urban joints where barbecue happens, capturing the sights and, somehow, the distinctive feels of the places and their people, revealing this familiar world in ways that can seem both as ancient as the heart of a weathered oak and as fresh as a bright scoop of potato salad on a three-meat plate.
And how about some tasty text along with that main course, hoss? The words to this book are of no meaner quality, featuring an introduction by barbecue superstar Aaron Franklin, several venue-specific passages by McSpadden himself, and the informative summarizing of that "Barbecue Unicorns and Big City Pits" essay by none less than Texas Monthly's barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. Only thing missing, maybe, is some paper towels to make sure your mitts are clean before touching this gorgeous work of publishing.
Texas BBQ: Small Town to Downtownby Wyatt McSpadden
UT Press, 160 pp., $39.95
McSpadden will talk barbecue with Aaron Franklin at 3:30pm Saturday, Oct. 27, in the Central Market Cooking Tent, and sign Texas BBQ: Small Town to Downtown at 4:30pm in the Adult Signing Tent on Congress.