GRANDE VALLEY, WINTER TEXANSby
AND TEXAS BBQ
winter, starting about 1950 many so-called “Winter Texans” have come to enjoy
the Valley’s South Texas weather.
These folks come from the states north of Texas and
Canada. Their numbers have increased every year and as a result they now make
a tremendous impact on the local economy.|
We hear them talk among themselves
of the bad weather being experienced at their home. They are easy to spot dressed
in their shorts and T-shirts. While us natives wear our jeans, long sleeved shirts
and jackets when the north wind occasionally blows into the Valley. Obviously
the weather is the first reason they choose the Valley.
It is a
fact that if these visitors collectively sang, they could sing, “I’ve been
everywhere – crossed the deserts bare – I’ve breathed the mountain air – of travel
I’ve had my share – I’ve been everywhere” and really mean it. I believe they
choose to come to the Rio Grande Valley also because of us Texans. Winter Texans
understand that Texans get along just fine when left alone.
|A third attraction
would be real Texas BBQ. I wouldn’t want them to leave Texas without enjoying
BBQ. Here is how Winter Texans (and others) can find more locations that should
have good BBQ. Beef brisket is the preferred cut of meat and mesquite is the favorite
fire. When you find a place with smoke coming from a pit, burning mesquite, with
beef brisket cooking that means you have found a genuine location. Regardless
of what the facility looks like.|
|Texans, who began
BBQing, had more time than money. Brisket was 1st chosen because it is a cheaper
cut of meat. This tough cut is muscle held together by connective tissue. Long
slow cooking allows smoke and seasoning to enter the meat as the other tissue
melts away. The result is the meat becomes tender and flavorful. This is the 2nd
reason brisket was chosen. |
Mesquite is a hardwood of a small but prolific
tree. Roaming herd animals from Mexico are credited with introducing mesquite
to the land that became Texas about 100 years later. This tree was generally reviled
because of its thorns and other wiry aspects.
Almost single-handed mesquite,
plus cactus made it necessary for cowboys to wear leather chaps for protection.
An early effort to rid the land of this pesky bush/tree was to cut and burn it.
That was unsuccessful and was hard work. So while the fires burned some folks
cooked the available meat.
Different woods produce different flavor levels
in the cooked meat. About the intensity scale of wood flavors, I say - mesquite
produces the most and pecan the least – while other woods fall in between. If
you have trouble remembering that, think mesquite most, pecan puny.
some folks cook with mesquite only from the tree trunk, cut to length and split,
while others use large branches. Regardless, the purpose is to furnish smoke and
hot heat for a long time to cook the meat to a finish, which is tender and flavorful.
Cut-cross the grain, the ideal thickness of brisket slices is only about 3 coins
thick (like a stack of 3 U. S. Quarters).
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, February 2009
| The Rio Grande Valley
is considered as being between Brownsville
and Roma. That is a hundred plus
miles, anyway you travel and we only had a few days to search. Besides looking
for smoke, we figured the northerners might use their GPS “food points of interest”
to see what it listed for BBQ. We found none of those recommendations had BBQ
and in some instances the entire buildings were gone. Mostly we went on a GPS
“wild goose chase.” We left Brownsville
out of our search for now, because of their “Charro Days, visiting crowds”.|
I know many Winter Texans already recognize that Willies BBQ in Alamo
serves good mesquite smoked beef brisket. Here are others we found to add to their
list. Near the opposite end of the Valley, we found Felix BBQ in La
Joya for 38 years, a really fine BBQ joint. In McAllen
is Lone Star BBQ on 10thstreet that was originated in Mission
and it is still there operating. Another good joint is Uncle Roy’s in Pharr.
We also ate at Smokey’s in San
Juan and the brisket was terrific. This is all genuine BBQ. Near where we
stay on FM1015 in Weslaco
is Fat Daddy’s a good restaurant with delicious ribs but the beef was Top Sirloin
Butt, not brisket.
Barbecue Cookers |
Photos courtesy Ken
Rudine, February 2009
|We used to see Bum
and Bev in a BBQ joint at Wharton before
they moved. I’ve heard Bum Phillips say, “Texans are forged in a hotter fire.”
I think the same is true of our Texas BBQ. “Texas BBQ is forged in a hotter mesquite
May 1, 2009
Related Topics: Food
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