When Texas Monthly announced the addition of Daniel Vaughn, former architect, as its first-ever Barbecue Editor, most meat-eating Texans were green with envy. A year later, Vaughn reflects on what he’s learned and any barbecue beef that’s come up along the way.
What have you learned since starting?
I certainly know now how little I knew about beef product and processing. I’ve learned a lot more about the people of barbecue. I’ve also learned the history of brisket when you look at how popular it’s been and when it started popping up on menus. It wasn’t prominent on barbecue menus until the late ’50s, early ’60s. When it started showing up, it was advertised as smoked brisket by Jewish delis in El Paso and Corpus as early as 1910. That was unexpected for the fact that it’s never been discussed. That’s the beauty of what I do.
How do you prepare for eating all of the meat?
Well, I don’t eat a ton earlier in the day, but I also don’t finish much of anything. I make friends at the bar and offer them bits and pieces. I was eating at Hays County Barbecue in San Marcos, they’re in a new spot along the highway so I wanted to go in and revisit the menu and see how they were doing... I’d gotten one of everything and there was no way I was going to finish that. As luck would have it, two folks came in through the door and I was like, “Hey, how’s it going? Have a seat, I have your lunch right here.”
Does it ever get uncomfortable with people when you’ve given them a less-than-glowing review?
I was at Camp Brisket in College Station in January and the organizers had brought in a bunch of pit masters from across the state including Bryan Bracewell from Southside Market, who wasn’t in the “Top 50 best BBQ Joints in the world.” There wasn’t any weirdness, everything was fine, but we had a panel discussion and one of the moderators asked what did it feel like for them to be in the Top 50. Bryan was sorta looking at me and laughing … someone found a way to make this uncomfortable, but it was more humorous. … by and large barbecue people are good people.
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San Antonio Book Festival
Daniel Vaughn, moderated by Edmund Tijerina
10am, Sat, April 5
Central Market Cooking Tent
Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Campus parking lot