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"Dear Lord, we thank you for these barbecue ribs and beef we're about to eat and bless the cow that they come from. You know Lord, we're grateful for most of your animals, except those that get themselves killed on the highway and wind up being eaten by the vultures. Heck Lord, if it weren't for barbecue all we'd have is chili and you know a man can't live on that stuff forever! So we're thankful Lord, even if we forget to say so, for this barbecue we're about to eat. Amen!


Barbecue is now big business. One trade group estimates 11.6 million grills were shipped to retailers in 1998. There are some 2.9 BILLION barbecue events held annually in the world. At least 84 percent of Americans own a barbecue grill of some sort and the sales of charcoal briquets (I know it isn't the same as wood smoked barbecue, but sometimes you have to have it) is in the vicinity of 884,000 TONS annually.


This is a whole other breed of folks. There's lots to know like what kind of rubs are best, a number of types of wood to choose from, various sizes and shapes of barbecue pit and grills, all kinds of things to consider like smoke rings and barbecue "flavor prints," whether to cook fast or slow, hot or medium. But most of the barbecue cookers that do it for a living have already learned the real secret: The barbecue business is when you get to charge for doing something you love and would probably be doing anyway. Barbecue men have to have stories to tell, too, and they tell them best while stoking the fire and getting the meat ready. They also tell them best when they've got one hand free to motion and one hand filled with a cold can of beer, for leverage.


I'm sorry if I make a mess; I might get some on you.
But I don't want no more rice cakes, and tuna just won't do.
I know I'll have a heart attack, a stroke or maybe two.
But baby, be it beef or pork, I want barbecue.'


Pseudo-Q or Faux-Q (don't say this one out loud). Meat that is boiled in water (parboiled) and then finished on the grill and served with a BBQ sauce containing liquid smoke product. Also used to refer to foods cooked in the oven that simulate real BBQ. These are taboo on the BBQ List.

Q. Here's an important question. My wife gets sick of BBQ if we have it 5 nights running. . . Hmmmm. What should I do?
A. Take her to McDonalds or Burger King on the fourth night and she will be ready for BBQ again.

Q. What meats are used for barbecuing?
A. Beef briskets are favored in Texas, pork shoulders in North Carolina, ribs in Kansas, chicken in Louisiana. Much of the regional favoritism is due to the type of animals raised in the area. Turkey, seafood, lamb, goat and venison can also be smoked in this manner. Road killed armadillo, etc. and there's even some folks barbecuing big birds like Emu. Basically whatever you want to eat can be cooked on the pit. Heck there's a guy on television now who cooks vegetables and even makes pies on the barbecue pit (though he does use one of those nasty gas grills).


It figures that there are competing schools of thought on barbecue; 'cue proprietors can't even get together on how to spell "barbecue." Is it (bar-b-q, bar-b-que, bar-b-cue), or what? And they also don't agree on how long they should cook it, which wood to cook it over, what sauce or rub to use, which cuts and critters they should use and type of pit they should have.

Pork eating is big in the East versus the beef-barbecuing West. Some say the pork absorbs smoke better, but some folks simply refuse to dine on swine. And most of those same folks will hunch down on a barbecued or smoked chicken. Contrary to what you might have heard though Texans like beef the best, unless it's ribs then it doesn't seem to matter beef or pork are both good.


It just isn't the same as good old Texas barbecue, but there are all kinds of chain-type barbecue joints from Mexico to London and all points in between, and a flourishing chain of Brazilian-style barbecue that's expanding across the country. In fact, most all countries have their own varying types of barbecue from Oriental to country-style. Most of it is available somewhere in America. But the only place you can get real Texas Barbecue is in Texas and the best "hole in the wall" is in Valera. It's called Big O's. Shoot, a trip to Big O's just to see the art is worthwhile, the food just makes it more tasty. We might should have called it Big O's Barbecue and Art Gallery!

All things considered, it's no surprise that the National Barbecue Association comes to Texas instead of, say, San Francisco for its conference. Texas is home to five barbecue-sanctioning societies and, in addition to all the regular rib joints, shacks on the side of the road, and restaurants, Texas supports a monster amateur barbecue scene.

One barbecue lover said she and her husband hit 20 barbecue events last year, logged almost 7,000 miles in their motor home -- and never left Texas.

It's a really mixed grill out there. Though we don't masticate much mutton, we do dote on the goat in some parts of the state. And down in deep south Texas some places can fix you up with a nice barbecued cow head, complete with eyes, brains and tongue, most any weekend. Some will cook you a little bit of everything, even rattlesnake and ostrich. Though some folks compared the rattlesnake to chicken necks.