Blow­ing smoke, prefer­ably hick­ory

The Capi­tol bu­reau­cracy rains on a con­gress­man’s at­tempt to heal with bar­be­cue

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Congress last week fi­nally turned to some­thing gen­uinely im­por­tant, when Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas blis­tered the Ar­chi­tect of the Capi­tol, the care­taker of the gov­ern­ment’s build­ings on Capi­tol Hill, for in­ter­fer­ing with the prepa­ra­tion of his bar­be­cued ribs.

Get­ting in the way of au­then­tic bar­be­cue is a crime for which there is no for­give­ness. It’s a crime al­most as heinous as serv­ing fraud­u­lent bar­be­cue, of which there is, alas, no short­age.

Mr. Gohmert rep­re­sents a district in East Texas which should give him an un­der­stand­ing of the real thing. When the wind is up and blow­ing from the east, hick­ory smoke from Arkansas and Louisiana some­times reaches Longview, Glade­wa­ter and even Gun Bar­rel City. The deeper a hun­gry man trav­els into Texas, how­ever, the greater the risk of or­der­ing bar­be­cue and get­ting smoked beef, which can be de­li­cious but is not, strictly speak­ing, bar­be­cue. Only the noble pig, af­ter spend­ing 24 to 36 hours in the smoke house, is the stuff of au­then­tic bar­be­cue.

Mr. Gohmert re­sumed his beef with the Capi­tol’s main­te­nance op­er­a­tion in a speech to the House about the mis­placed pri­or­i­ties of fed­eral agen­cies.

“About seven years ago,” he said, “the Ar­chi­tect of the Capi­tol, who works for the House and Se­nate, had de­cided that we all work for him, and started mak­ing de­mands. One of which was, I could not cook the ribs and share them with other mem­bers of Congress.” Putting a grill on the bal­cony of his of­fice in the Ray­burn House Of­fice Build­ing was deemed a fire haz­ard.

“I have enough of my late mother in me that I en­joy cook­ing and en­joy peo­ple en­joy­ing what I cook,” he says. “It’s prob­a­bly the only time here on Capi­tol Hill when I ac­tu­ally leave a good taste in peo­ple’s mouths.”

His ribs are pop­u­lar with col­leagues on both sides of the aisle. One Demo­cratic col­league told him that she took some of the ribs home, look­ing for­ward to sec­ond help­ings, and her hus­band, a veg­e­tar­ian, ate them be­fore she could. Oth­ers tell him they’re the best ribs they’ve ever had. Some­times Mr. Gohmert uses the bal­cony of Rep. Fred Up­ton of Michi­gan, which is larger and does not vi­o­late the Capi­tol’s bar­be­cue code. But he doesn’t like putting him to in­con­ve­nience and he still has his beef with the Capi­tol main­te­nance po­lice.

Any­one un­fa­mil­iar with bar­be­cue — which is nearly ev­ery­one north of the Po­tomac, though the food of the gods can be dis­cov­ered in un­likely places — is of­ten sur­prised by the pas­sion that bar­be­cue stirs in the breasts of the mildest man­nered of men. De­bate can rage on the finest of fine points, such as whether the au­then­tic goods can be found in a place ad­ver­tis­ing “Bar B-Q.”

Men have fought du­els — hush­pup­pies thrown at 30 yards — over the rel­a­tive mer­its of a Mem­phis sauce, red and tomato-based, against a Carolina sauce, yel­low with mus­tard be­gin­nings. Mar­riages have foundered on such ar­gu­ments.

Pit mas­ters in the South ar­gue true bar­be­cue can only be smoked with hick­ory, which gives off an aroma that is the au­then­tic sig­na­ture of a re­spectable pig. Tex­ans ar­gue that only mesquite logs are wor­thy of “cow­boy style” beef ribs.

Bar­be­cue joints can­not be fancy — pa­per tow­els in abun­dance to wipe the sauce away, never white table­cloths or nap­kins. A con­gres­sional of­fice is about the limit of re­spectabil­ity. One such joint in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal dis­played on the wall this trib­ute from a sat­is­fied cus­tomer: “Best bar­be­cue I ever ate in a build­ing that hadn’t al­ready been con­demned.”

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