Book Review: Reading Menu

Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt

Reading Menu

Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket

by Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt
University of Texas Press, 255 pp., $21.95

Cooking Tent: Sunday, Nov. 1, 12:30pm

The UT Press has cornered the market on Texas barbecue coverage this year, first with Wyatt McSpadden's stunning book of barbecue photographs, followed by the perfect companion volume, a collection of oral histories that chronicle a true American regional cuisine. UT American studies professor and oral historian Elizabeth Engelhardt and an intrepid team of 11 graduate students spent months interviewing legendary Central Texas barbecue folks. This book is the result of their dedication to Texas culinary history. They conducted what could possibly be the final interviews with legendary Taylor pit master Bobby Mueller, longtime Smokey Denmark sausagemaker Jim McMurtry, and Houston-area church barbecue matriarch May Archie. They recorded Rick Schmidt's version of the infamous Kreuz Market family feud and heard the history of Taylor Cafe's two jukeboxes from Vencil Mares. They gained valuable insight into the history of segregated East Austin's African-American business community from Ben Wash and learned the Hispanic holiday traditions surrounding barbacoa from Aurelio Torres. The book is rich with Texas barbecue myths, family histories, poignant anecdotes, and colorful tales, with nary a recipe in sight. It's a delectable combo platter of Texas barbecue, suitable to savor.

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