Honestly, I didn’t really believe it.
A lot of times, people hold a kind of hometown pride belief in some local manifestation of food — and sometimes it holds up (pizza and bagels in NYC, f’rex), other times, not so much. With Austin, people said, tacos and barbecue, and okay, fine, I thought, I’m sure the tacos and BBQ there are just great. In terms of tacos, I’m near some pretty solid taco options here in Pennsylvania, which always shocks people until I remind them that immigrants are not bound to one area of the country. You can make great tacos anywhere. And I thought the same about BBQ.
Anybody can smoke meat, I said to myself.
People say, BUT AUSTIN IS THE BEST BBQ, and sure, fine, great. I’ve been to Georgia, I’ve lived down South, I’ve had BBQ in both the Carolinas, and… I’m dubious about best ever BBQ claims. Shit, we have a pork place nearby my house that does BBQ during the summers and it’s like — boy howdy, it’s good.
So, I knew in my heart, Austin will have great BBQ.
But the best?
And then I went.
And I had beef brisket you’re looking at.
I was there running a workshop for the Austin Romance Writers Association (ARWA), and upon being met by my wonderful handler Tracie (aka Sloane), she said, “Do you want to go get barbecue?” And of course the answer to that is yes. I don’t care where I am, whether it’s terrestrial Earth or the moon, yes, I want barbecue, because it’s meat, and meat is wonderful. Except if you’re vegetarian or vegan, but I do not have the strength of character to be those things, and so I am a lowly meat-eater. Meat is wonderful especially when it is cooked in the Ancient Ways of Barbecue.
So, she took me to a place called Freedmen’s. It’s not Franklin’s, no, but we also didn’t have to wake up at 6AM to get in line to eat lunch by 1PM.
I went. They had whiskey. I did not partake because I had just come off of two plane flights, and desperately needed coffee. So I had coffee and barbecue, which works… surprisingly well together? And I thought, well, it’s cattle country, I should eat cow, and so gimme dat brisket.
And they did.
And mirth exploded from me in a shower of meaty, fatty embers, each alighting like a firefly as they erupted out of me — and okay, that’s a gross metaphor, to be sure, and we’re just going to pretend I didn’t say any of that. Point is: it was fucking sublime. It was definitely the best piece of brisket BBQ I’ve ever had, and not by a little bit, but by an epic margin.
So, go there.
In fact, go to Austin and eat — I didn’t have a single bad meal. (No tacos, regrettably, for me.) The workshop was aces all around, and I always love giving talks and workshops to the RWA because the audience always brings it — they bring great ideas and questions and a heavy craft focus which, y’know, is what I’m there to talk about. Some audiences sit and stare at you and don’t want to interact, and that’s never been the case with these workshops, and certainly wasn’t the case this past weekend, so thanks to the ARWA for having me there, and I hope I was able to bring something to the table in terms of talking about writing and storytelling and about creating kick-ass characters.
Sadly, I missed one of my extra days in Austin due to the sixteen inches of snow that dropped on us last week, so I didn’t get to see everyone or do everything I wanted to. Was hoping to hang with cool folks like Stina Leicht, but didn’t get the chance — I did get to meet Meg Gardiner (holy shit!) and have porch whiskey with Cargill, so it wasn’t a total wash, but I was kinda ping-ponging around with little time and not quiiiiiite enough sleep.
Next up for me is the Doylestown Books signing with Kevin Hearne and Fran Wilde (April 7th!), and then Ravencon in Virginia after that (April 20th-22nd!).
And that’s it.
SEE YOU ON THE INTERNETS
*dissolves into pixels*