Sunday, August 24, 2008

Peering Near-Sightedly at the REAL Texas

What is it about Texas?

Something gets under your skin here. It’s an infection you want to get. Maybe it’s the wide open spaces. It could be the casual beauty of the cities or the pleasing Tex Mex blending of pastel colors. It might even be all the history you can touch at the Alamo, the Missions – all the famous faces and all the legendary places.

But I think the real secret of Texas isn’t the people. It’s not the history.

It’s the Bar-B-Q.

Texas Bar-B-Q is one of man’s great creations. Forget the wheel. The internal combustion engine? Pffft.

I invite you to give Texas Bar-B-Q just a few seconds of your consideration. Think about a plastic plate loaded down with enough glistening meat to make a vegetarian run screaming the other way. Think about savory sweet sauce, the kind of fatty juicy pork ribs that give your doctor nightmares. Consider thick slices of melt-in-your mouth brisket. Think about sinking your teeth unrepentantly into meat that falls off the bone…and being surrounded by other unrepentant carnivores doing exactly the same thing as you think to yourself “These are my people.”

I love Texas Bar-B-Q.

I love that the napkins come right off the paper towel roll and they expect you to help yourself. I love that the meat is heaped up on plates until they strain under the weight. In short, I love Texas Bar-B-Q…and I especially love Texas Bar-B-Q served up at Bob’s Cook House in Weimar (which is pronounced, with flagrant disregard for the English language as “WEE-mer”) Texas. (I’m pretty sure this is where the Queen eats when she’s in town.)

You’ll have to hunt for it. And when you find it, you’ll only see the sign that reads “Bob’s Cook House” if someone remembered to prop it up against the building. But wveryone in Weimar knows where Bob’s is. Just ask.

Treasures like Bob’s are worth looking for. They are worth hunting for. They are worth flying thousands of miles, renting a car and traveling through 104 degree heat for.

Chances are that Bob himself will be on hand to greet you with a big smile and a completely unaffected Texas drawl. (That's the aforementioned "Bob himself" to the left.) Both of the times we went there (yes…we went back…you betcha!) he told us about something that was on the menu that they were out of. Who cares? Bob’s is about food. Lots of food.

If you time your arrival right (and you HAVE to time it right because Bob now closes shop at 2:00 in the afternoon “due to football season”) you’ll see various members of the Weimar football team arrive for lunch. I stand to be corrected, but I think roughly half the team is related in some way to Bob. These guys look like they stepped out of a “small town Texas” movie. They are polite, they nod affably to a table full of strangers from Canada, and chat in muted tones with sweet looking cheerleaders and each other. They don’t throw things. They don’t swear and they tuck into the food with almost as much gusto as I do.

A policeman was chowing down when we got there the first time and warning Bob that the Bar-B-Q was making him sleepy and his crime-busting instincts would be dulled – which may or may not be a big deal in Weimer.

I know what he was talking about. Somewhere between the last morsel of brisket and the final scrapings of potato salad, a happy little “meat sweat” broke out on my cheekbones. This is the direct result of being unwilling to throw any of this feast away…but also not quite having enough room inside me to put it all.

In Houston and San Antonio, I had the sense that many of the people we met were “putting Texas on” for the tourists. Does that sound strange? Let me put it this way: it felt like a lot of the people we met were trying to act like they thought we expected Texans to behave.

Exaggerated accents and an almost annoying determination to work the word “y’all” into the conversation as often as possible made me suspect that most of them were really from New England.

But there’s no pretention at Bob’s. They took the time to get to know us, they greeted us like old friends upon our return and they fed us more than any mere mortal could be expected to ingest at any one sitting.

You see this woman to the right? It was a week between visits. She not only remembered us. But she also remembered what we ordered.

I don’t think Bob’s has a website. I only have their email because they wrote it on the back of a business card and asked almost shyly if we would send them copies of the pictures we took.

If you want to spend a few minutes having the kind of authentic Texas experience you were hoping for when you booked your flight…you would be nuts to pass by Weimar and not take your tummy to Bob’s Cook House.

Just make sure you get there before two if it’s during football season. I understand football season is a "Texas thing."

So is Bob's.

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