Spring Fever Contest in Austin, Texas Part 2
By Donna Fong
If you have ever flown in or out of San Francisco on a sunny day, there is no denying its beauty. Between the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the San Francisco Bay is some of the most prized and productive farmland around the world. The value of the Central Valley becomes obvious to the beholder at a quick glance. No land is left uncultivated or purposed. Even in the drought, watery canals divide lush green crops which glimmer back at the plane as we head towards Austin.
In a short hour, the landscape dries up in Nevada and then reddens as we approach Albuquerque. Cracks open up in the earth. Then the dirt yellows as we approach Midland, Texas. Below me are patches of oil wells linked by tiny straight roads. There are thousands of these wells. Who would have known such a dry stretch of earth would yield oil?
I began calculating in my head how many of these I would need to own in order to quit my day job and BBQ full time. Before I was done, the dust was gone and the land darkened to smoky green hue. I was now approaching Austin. The trees that populate this area are oak trees. This is the famous “post oak” that is used in central Texas barbeque.
I thought of the brisket injection that was stowed away in the belly of my airplane and got a little nervous. In Texas, beef is king. And if there is one thing that is currently sexy about barbeque it is Texas beef brisket. Just ask Aaron Franklin.
Two days prior, I spent $60 for an Angus brisket from Restaurant Depot, hoping to get in some practice. My buddy said my brisket needed a deep black bark and a peppery tone. I practiced and got the flavor and color but the crust was in shreds. I still needed some adjustments but didn’t have any time.
In my closet is a huge roll of pink butcher paper I had purchased after our last trip to Austin. I tried using it a couple of times and learned a few lessons. Lesson number one is: the fat side has to go up when using paper. If you don’t do that, the fat sticks to the paper. Lesson number two is: learn how to wrap your brisket properly because folding it right isn’t obvious.
I tore off a long sheet, folded it up and stuffed it into my suitcase. Cindy and I hadn’t talked about too many details but I thought it couldn’t hurt to bring it along. Harry sharpened my knives a few days earlier in SoCal. Along with the knives in my suitcase, were a bottle of rye/gin blend, a bottle of half drunken absinthe and a pack of cigars from Chesapeake, Virginia. I was ready for my first BBQ contest in Texas. Heehaw!