To Texans, barbecue is elemental. Succulent, savory, perfumed with smoke and spice, it transcends the term "comfort food." It's downright heavenly, and it's also a staff of Texas life. Like a dust storm or a downpour, barbecue is a force of Texas nature, a stalwart tie to the state's cultural and culinary history. Though the word is often shortened to "BBQ," the tradition of barbecue stands Texas-tall.
Photographer Wyatt McSpadden has spent some twenty years documenting barbecue-specifically, the authentic family-owned cafes that are small-town mainstays. Traveling tens of thousands of miles, McSpadden has crisscrossed the state to visit scores of barbecue purveyors, from fabled sites like Kreuz's in Lockhart to remote spots like the Lazy H Smokehouse in Kirbyville. Color or black-and-white, wide angle or close up, his pictures convey the tradition and charm of barbecue. They allow the viewer to experience each place through all five senses. The shots of cooking meat and spiraling smoke make taste and smell almost tangible. McSpadden also captures the shabby appeal of the joints themselves, from huge, concrete-floored dining halls to tiny, un-air-conditioned shacks. Most of all, McSpadden conveys the primal physicality of barbecue-the heat of fire, the heft of meat, the slickness of juices-and also records ubiquitous touches such as ancient scarred carving blocks, torn screen doors and peeling linoleum, and toothpicks in a recycled pepper sauce jar.
The photographer/author of Texas BBQ, Wyatt McSpadden has been shooting pictures of Texas barbecue joints for more than twenty-five years. He is a contributing photographer for Texas Monthly, in which he has published images of virtually every aspect of life in Texas. JIM HARRISON is the author of thirty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He has recently published The Farmer's Daughter and In Search of Small Gods, a book of poems. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and food columnist for Texas Journey, JOHN MORTHLAND has written widely on the subjects of food, music, travel, and regional culture for more than thirty years.