Alex Massie

The Best Little Brisket in Texas

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One thing I'd like to do next summer (if, that is, we have a summer) is devote some time to doing some proper BBQ. No surprise, then, that I was a sucker for Calvin Trillin's New Yorker piece on the small Lexington BBQ-joint hailed by Texas Monthly as the home of the Best BBQ in the Lone Star state.

As a longtime editor, though, he knew a Cinderella story when he saw one. It wasn’t just that Snow’s had been unknown to a Texas barbecue fancy that is notably mobile. Snow’s proprietor, Kerry Bexley, was a former rodeo clown who worked as a blending-facility operator at a coal mine. Snow’s pit master, Tootsie Tomanetz, was a woman in her early seventies who worked as the custodian of the middle school in Giddings, Texas—the Lee County seat, eighteen miles to the south. After five years of operating Snow’s, both of them still had their day jobs. Also, Snow’s was open only on Saturday mornings, from eight until the meat ran out.

...In the weeks after the Texas Monthly feature was published, Snow’s went from serving three hundred pounds of meat every Saturday to serving more than a thousand pounds. At eight in the morning—six or seven hours after Miss Tootsie had arrived to begin tending the pits—there was already a line of customers, some of whom had left home before dawn. Bexley said that one Saturday morning, when there were ninety people waiting outside, a local resident asked permission to gather signatures along the line for a petition, only to return a few minutes later with the information that there wasn’t one person there from Lee County. Some locals expressed irritation at being shut out of their own barbecue joint. At times, Bexley and Miss Tootsie felt overwhelmed. There were moments, they say, when they wished that the tasters from Texas Monthly had never shown up. Then Bexley added three brisket pits, Miss Tootsie got some help, Snow’s for a time quit taking pre-orders by phone except for locals, and the amount of meat prepared every Saturday levelled off to about eight hundred pounds....

This, folks, is some of the stuff that makes America great. It's the puppyish enthusiasm combined with a manic quest for perfection that's responsible for much of what is wonderful and, fairness demands one acknowledge, some of what is more troublesome about that great, sprawling, messy land.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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