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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses
By Robb Walsh
Chronicle Books, $18.95 ISBN 0-8118-2961-8

Can it be?

An American cookbook about barbecue that doesn't include "finger-lickin," "finger-licking," or even "lick yo fingers" anywhere in the text?

Yup, we're in luck, because this summer's best barbecue book is also free of clichés. And Texas barbecue, Lord knows, has spawned enough clichés over its saucy ways.

I met Robb Walsh at the National Barbecue Association last February. He told the story of the beginnings of this book, starting with the conflicting tales of real barbecue.
Texans love to argue about barbecue, Walsh says, in part because so many regional styles claim to be the "real barbecue. " If you believe the dictum that "barbecue is cooked slow and low," then visit the Kreuz Market in Lockhart, where prime rib roasts are cooked at 600F over a fire of post oak buried in a brick oven.

The meat is dressed only with salt and pepper and smoke - not even a drop of red sauce. Is it Texas barbecue?

Sure it is, and so is the BBQ made of pork shoulder smoked over open pits of pecan wood in South Texas. So is the Mexican migrant workers' informal BBQ of beef seared directly over coals of mesquite wood in West Texas.

"No one can really be sure of the definition," Walsh writes. "But the best way to preserve our traditions is constantly disagree about what Texas barbecue really is."

Common ground can be found in the wonderful recipes for Texas barbecue and side dishes that fill most of the book's 11 chapters. The first chapters cover history and tools for BBQ, the last chapter serves as a road map to find the legends on your own time in Texas.

Recipes mostly work as intended, from simple fare such as a barbecued cabbage (cored, buttered, seasoned, wrapped in foil and tucked into a corner of the smoker to cook for several hours) to barbecoa, the cooked cow's head that makes true Tejanos salivate while other lesser mortals swoon in disgust (Remember Elizabeth Taylor fainting in GIANT?)

Sidebars tackle the terminology of ribs, brief bios of the pit bosses, musings on meat from beef to wild game, plus a glossary and index. Don't be misled by the book's title - the pit bosses of Texas barbecue have plenty to teach the rest of America about food. It's both a regional history, and a cookbook for all of us who love to eat.

Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook delivers both a practical cookbook and a guided tour of Texas barbecue lore, giving readers straightforward advice right from the pit masters themselves. Their opinions are outspoken, their stories sometimes outlandish and hilarious.

Fascinating archival photography looks back over more than 100 years of barbecue history, from the first turn of the century squirrel roasts to candid shots of Lyndon Johnson chowing down on a plate of ribs. A list of the best barbecue joints and a month-by-month rundown of the most influential statewide cook-offs round out this glorious celebration of barbecue found deep in the heart of Texas.

Beer most often shows up in the advice for Texas BBQ technique, such as "Relax, go have a beer, and let it cook slowly." But there are good recipes for drunken beans, rib mop sauces, and plenty of dishes that pair well with beer.


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