"We all come together with this common bond of barbecue in Texas," proclaimed writer Joe Nick Patoski, kicking-off Foodways Texas 3rd Annual Symposium entitled "Our Barbecue, Ourselves." The organization's mission is to preserve, promote and celebrate the food cultures of the vast state.
I attended the event thanks to a generous scholarship from Slow Food Austin. Barbecue was the focus this year, and they approached the topic more broadly than I expected, reaching beyond the Central Texas trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage to include wild game sausages, pork belly, and Gulf Coast seafood. Even Alabama barbecue chicken with white sauce made an appearance.
We did more than just eat, of course. During two and a half days, speakers like Daniel Vaughn, Robb Walsh, and John T. Edge explored topics like music, race and culture, hunting, and the idea of the pit master.
Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and Daniel Delaney of Delaney Barbecue sat on a panel about the business of barbecue. Franklin, who opened his brick-and-mortar location in Austin in 2011, maintains that the business of barbecue has not changed much in Texas. He considers himself "very much a traditionalist, very much a purist" who relies only on meat, salt, and fire to make his exceptionally tender brisket. "I feel funny even having lights," he joked.
Daniel Delaney amused the crowd with stories about explaining Texas-style barbecue to a New York clientele. "Barbecue is not culture in New York, it's just another place to get a meal," he said.
The symposium started with Franklin's meltingly tender brisket and culminated with a barbecue feast featuring various regional styles on the lovely grounds of the French Legation Museum. I'm ashamed to say that I was porked out by then, but there were plenty of alternatives like grilled fish and banana pudding.