Camp Brisket 2015

BrisketAs luck would have it, I recently found myself in the lobby of a hotel in College Station, TX, having secured a coveted seat for Camp Brisket. A few years ago, I went on for several linear feet about the joys of the BBQ Summer Camp put on by Foodways Texas and the Texas A&M Meat Sciences Center. Now I will wax sentimental about this sister-camp dedicated to that quintessential Texas smoked meat, brisket. Buckle up, friends, this is a long one.

Not just a few jokes have been made during the Foodways Texas BBQ events about how lovely it is that a group based out of the University of Texas should come together in such an ecumenical fashion with a bunch of Aggies to throw a meat party. But that is precisely what it is. And, Brisket Camp is an offshoot of BBQ Summer Camp devoted entirely to the art and science of, and devotion to, this one cut of meat. Apparently the greatest of rivalries can take a few days off when BBQ is concerned.

I bumped into Robb Walsh, a founder of Foodways Texas, in the lobby and we decided that the best way to begin two days of eating little other than brisket was to hustle out to a seafood spot and eat something aquatic. Over oysters and other things, we caught up on life and his upcoming book on one of my other favorite food groups, chili. And a whole group it is, as you will learn…but that is a talk for another day.

Thursday morning, people began showing up at the Meat Science Building well before sunrise. As usual, the students in the Meat Science program had been working far earlier than we ever considered awakening, and pits were already fired up. I showed up a few minutes early and got a tour of the mobile smoker of Russell Roegels, who most recently served a ton of brisket to the secret service who were guarding Texas parachutist George Bush, Sr. during a recent hospital visit. Yes, that one. I was fortunate enough to get a peek at the pepper crusted briskets slowly cooking inside the mobile smoker, and started the day smelling like a proper Texan.


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Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm BarnI have been blessed with some rather intoxicating travel opportunities in the last few years and now that I take a moment to consider them as a whole, I see that few were of my own making and that I live in a mode of perpetual gratitude for my luck in family and good taste in friends. My mother turned 70 years old last week, which is surprising enough…because she doesn’t seem 70 and because having a 70 year old mother says more than I want to hear about the stunning vortex that is adulthood where years fly by you as though the universe is pitching 100 mph fast balls to see how many of the years you will hit out of the park, how many will be nice safe ground balls, and how many you will swing hard on and miss.

In this analogy, the celebration of this maternal milestone counts as a grand slam. We don’t typically do family vacations as we are all running in so many interesting directions…we all fend for ourselves and briefly gather when we can for laughs and that refueling that you only get from being with your very own people. But for this, she gathered us all up and took us to Tennessee so that we could be together, kids running free and fast, adults engaging in utter gluttony and comfort at one of her favorite spots on the planet, Blackberry Farm.


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Hello Friends

Photo of my gardenHello friends.

I’ve been avoiding this like the plague, but here goes: I’M FULL. I’m existentially FULL. Stuffed to the gills.

And, I’m as busy. I’m busy doing the things that I’m supposed to be busy doing and it is leaving me unable to think of wonderful new delicious things with which to be busy. And even if I thought of them I’d be too busy to photograph and write about them. Alas, paid work and mothering is taking a front seat to my unpaid ramblings.

Instead of just embracing that and looking around at the new and exciting situation, I’ve been fretting about neglecting PIE, and by extension, you.

Since this is not a mommy blog. I’m not going to blog instead about my day to day happenings. I promise. But I did just want to say this:

PIE isn’t going anywhere. Occasionally, I’ll throw some fun new recipes up here, so sign up for the email alerts and you’ll be the first to know. But they will be slightly less frequent. Approaching PIE’s 4th birthday, it is hard to believe that I posted 3 times a week for a few years. Now, I’m lucky to squeeze in 1 per week.


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Farm to Market 2014: Foodways Texas Symposium, Part II

Friday Dinner at the Farm[Dinner at The Farm at Ronin Cooking Friday Evening]

Our first day of the 2014 Foodways Texas Symposium ended at The Farm at Ronin Cooking. It was a beautiful night. But we had more eating and story telling and listening to do, which cannot be done on an empty stomach. So we had to eventually go to bed so that we could wake up and be fed again.

Breakfast on Saturday was lovely. Sometimes simplicity is called for. Following our meal at the farm, the brilliant choice was made to present a simple toast and preserves breakfast. I said simple, not light. It was so incredibly decadent. Here is how it went. Stephanie McClenny is Confituras Jams. She is remarkable. She makes a wonderful product, and she is a very nice person, to boot. Her preserves are simple but nuanced. They are sweet, but celebrate the fruit. Wonderful. She teamed up with my pal Meaders Ozarow at Empire Baking in Dallas. Meaders was asked to do a version of Texas Toast. This, my friends, was Texas Toast made with challah dough, fluffy and thick, buttered and griddle-cooked on big baking sheets over hot coals. Then, as though that weren’t sufficient, Stephanie brought fresh chevre from Blue Heron Farm which was sublime. It was so fresh and quite spreadable. It was so fresh and light tasting that I found myself having to reach to even identify it as a goat cheese. I can’t say enough about it. I piled the goat cheese on top of my toast and then topped it with a giant hat of Stephanie’s orange chile de arbol marmalade. Dear God. Sausage was provided by Salt & Time of Austin and I heard several people wandering by commenting that it was the best sausage they had ever eaten.


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Farm to Market 2014: Foodways Texas Symposium

Photo of The Veranda in College Station[Welcome Dinner at The Veranda in College Station, Texas]

I spent the last several days at the Foodways Texas Symposium which was held this year in College Station. Driving back to Dallas by way of Mexia on Sunday morning, I had an opportunity to think about my time at the symposium this year. This is my fourth symposium and each one has been important to me. On the backroads which are  just beginning to blanket with wildflowers, I finally slowed my mind enough to begin the challenging task of documenting what I had learned and experienced in the preceding days. It is always fun. But every year I am surprised by just how many great things happen, how many great people I meet and reconnect with, and how many stupendous meals I am served. It is a bit dizzying. And though I needed a nap more than a drive, I was grateful for the generous landscape of Texas through which to ponder this uniquely Texan weekend.

We meet yearly in support of a greater academic archiving project run through the University of Texas to document the diverse cultures of Texas. In fact, Foodways Texas just became a permanent part of UT’s American Studies Department. The panels, talks, and discussions this year were centered on the topic of agriculture at the aptly titled Farm to Market 2014: 4th Annual Foodways Texas Symposium. This alone would have been enough to hold my attention for two days. And, the meals at the symposium would have been enough to justify the cost of admission had there been no discussions at all.


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