I’ve been thinking about barbecue for a long time now. Not only because I worked at the Salt Lick in high school, but also because of my participation in this project. That book contains an essay by me called “The Feminine Mesquite,” in which I consider the feminist implications of barbecue (there are some! Trust me!). What Republic of Barbecue taught me is that barbecue really is the intersection of so many different cultural phenomena, from feminism to globalization to environmentalism.
My point is this: Once you start thinking critically about barbecue, it’s hard to stop.
Let me put this out there: I love Franklin BBQ. I think their brisket is the best I’ve had in the state of Texas (and I don’t eat brisket anywhere else). The pulled pork sandwich is to die for. The sauces are creative and bold, and I think that Aaron Franklin is, simply put, a genius. He started out in a small caravan next to a canoe shop on the 38th street access road about 18 months ago, and was an instant hit. Despite having posted hours of 11-4 Weds-Sun, if you got there at 1, you were slap outta luck on getting lunch. He recently moved into the space formerly occupied by the beloved Ben’s Long Branch, but that has done nothing to mitigate the crowds. Basically, if you want to eat at Franklin, you have to commit to queuing up long before the doors open at 11am.
Which is why I was deeply amused when I saw this making the rounds a couple of weeks ago:
And then it struck me: Franklin BBQ is a class issue. If you want to eat at Franklin, you have to have access to the time to go stand in line of a Thursday morning, perhaps even as early as 10am, waiting for the start of business, then wait in line while Aaron serves everyone (he makes sure to make eye contact and chat with every customer, which is charming when it’s your turn, but frustrating when you’re melting in the Texas heat at the back of the queue!) until it’s your time to order. Then you eat (or take it away, but it’s best eaten fresh and hot) and go about your business. You’ve just spent two hours on a half-pound of brisket or a pulled-pork sandwich in the middle of a workday.
They were open on Easter this year and Matt was meant to head down there while I took the kids to church so that we could supplement the big family dinner with some brisket, which my dad loves. I was dismayed when I called Matt a little after 11 on Easter Sunday and he was EN ROUTE to Franklin, rather than already having arrived and lined up. I knew there would be no brisket, and I was right: when he got there, he saw that the line snaked out the door and around the building. He didn’t even stop the car.
So. What’s my point? I’m not sure. It’s late and I’m tired. But I do know that barbecue is a humble food of humble origins, and I think it’s ironic that something so simple and humble, and, dare I say, working class, is pretty much out of reach for those who work in jobs that don’t allow for a cushy two-hour dawdle over smoked meat. Which is probably also why it’s that much more impossible on the weekends.