My name is Wayne.
And I’m a bbqaholic.
That right there is 1.5 lbs of extra moist brisket, 4 St. Louis pork ribs, a cup of potato salad and a bottle of coca-cola from a local BBQ place called Rudy’s BBQ. Add it all up and you get one happy Texan.
My relationship with BBQ started back in 1994. Most people who knew me, knew me as a picky eater. Heck, most people who know me NOW would say I’m still quite the picky eater. No chinese food, very few veggies, eat the same four or five basic kinds of meal every week… you get the idea.
Back then, I “didn’t like” BBQ. I would see people order it, or crave it, or just eat it every once in a while and I always passed. I would say “no thanks” and smile all the way to my tasty cheeseburger, pizza or lasagna. I guess I just didn’t like the smell; I didn’t understand why there was so much sauce (ketchup is all *I* needed to make food better).
Our first born, Caitlin, came about in 1994. With a new mouth to feed came a dwindling checking account, and I could no longer afford to eat out so much during lunch. Sometimes I brought my lunch, but mostly I looked for cheap food. I was working downtown at the time, and it wasn’t easy to find cheap food downtown.
One day, I noticed my windshield had an advertisement stuck to it. This was common practice back then… probably still is now, but I frequently became annoyed at the intrusive manner. A white flapping piece of paper, it looked to be hand-drawn and copied over and over too many times, so much that it lost some of it’s detail.
I picked it up as I always did, despite the underlying annoyance factor. It advertised something called a “Chopped Beef Sandwich” for $0.99 at a place called House Park.
Now, at the time, I didn’t know that “chopped beef” was some sort of code for BBQ – all I saw was “sandwich”, “$0.99” and “some place called something something that had $1 sandwiches”. It’s not like I had a choice.
I took the address into my mind and knew that it was within walking distance, so I decided to trek it on over, gleeful that I had found a lunch place with $1 sandwiches. Heck, maybe I’d get TWO.
Once I found the place, my heart sank a little. As my eyes breathed in the sight, I noticed the full name of the place — it’s name wasn’t just House Park. It was House Park BBQ. Ugh. BBQ. It was a little podunk hole in the wall that looked ancient. I soon found out it had been there since the 40’s. It had a few picnic tables out front and was tiny. I thought more than twice about forgetting the $1 sandwiches and turning back, but it was hot and I was hungry.
Who knows? maybe they had something else for $1.
After going in I noticed one long ordering counter, behind which were two guys – one working the customers, condiments, orders, etc and one working a huge oven or smoker or whatever BBQ is made in. The smell, I realized as I became more and more hungry, wasn’t all that bad. If fact, it was quite enticing.
I went up, showed my coupon thingy and the guy spoke backward “chop beef!’. He took the paper and asked if I wanted anything else. I asked for a coke, paid less than $2 total and got my plate with this new huge alien sandwich and an empty styrofoam cup for the fountain drink.
Since I love me some coke, I knew at least I’d be satiated by a bunch of refills. I took a seat inside and inspected this foreign food sitting in front of me. I wondered if it was inspecting me, too. Was I worthy to be it’s consumer?
The whole thing was warm… borderline hot, even. The chopped beef had sent it’s heat through both buns, which were soft and gave into my fingers. I was a sucker for soft bread so I was beginning to like the experience.
I took a bite.