Barbecue is not society fare, but it’s getting there. Its devotees endlessly debate the merits of low ’n’ slow, fundamentals and simplicity, discussing origins like appellations in a manner that would put a sommelier to shame.
At one level, barbecue is simple. It’s pork or beef. Defined as slow cooking at low heat using smoke rather than direct heat — not to be confused with plain grilling — things get complicated after that.
What wood (hickory is preferred, but there’s oak and pecan, also) what region (Memphis, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina or Kansas City) and how best to smoke the competition in a country where finding a pit is as easy in New York as it is in New Orleans.
Like vintners, provenance is important and region is paramount.
History and knowledge count, too — for instance, how many generations has a single family been in the business? Then there’s whether to coleslaw or not to coleslaw, that is the question, and there lies the rub. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
This is all before you even get to the sauce, the most identifiable feature of all.
Barbecue sauce is the signature and every man has his own secret recipe, usually a combination of ketchup, liquor, cola or beer and maybe some thyme.
Nor is the pit boss a visual that conjures up women. Truth be told, barbecue is a terribly masculine interest and always has been.
In fact, the origins of barbecue itself are lost in the mists of time, but can be theoretically traced to the moment the first cave man roasted meat over a low open fire and discovered it attracted both women and dogs.
Either one was useful.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Particularly at Parc Lafayette, where River Ranch’s little sister held a food truck round-up amid the Mignon Faget, Armentor Jewelers and La Femme designer lingerie. It’s the culinary brainchild of E’s Kitchen owner Paul Ayo. “I was on the backside and didn’t face the street, hidden away in Parc Lafayette,” said Ayo. “So I asked the landlord if we could park a couple of food trucks to get some eyeballs on the store. It worked.” Those not cruising the Creuset at E’s chilled under the oaks with brisket tacos and more, including Stephen and Pam Domingue, Houstonite Christy Ferris, former Xanadu Queen Rickie Maloney, Patsy Nacol and Jennifer Nacol Perron. What we loved: Chef Gregory Smith and his Memphis-style pulled pork sandwich, the Blanc boutique bridal party choosing a dress barely 20 feet away, patriotic cutie pie Kennady Lawrence and Jackson Perron, clearly bored with society.
Born to be wild
So what if the society swans have flown town for the summer? Just open your own private club instead. Jennifer LeBlanc did just that, sending out a casual invitation for shrimp, sangria and song, the last courtesy of music man Charlie Rees. “Welcome to Jennifer LeBlanc’s living room,” said Rees, back in the U.S. briefly after playing Europe for the past few years. The founding member of Atchafalaya played his own material as well as the old anthems with repartee to match. “I’m not used to the audience paying attention while I play,” he laughed. Lucky guests included Univeristy of Louisiana at Lafayette marketing director Aaron Martin, neighbors Susan and Richard Landry, designer Raoul Blanco, former voice of the Cajuns Don Allen, Matt Halfaker, Sheryl and John Peré and a gentlemanly John Jennings. Among the highlights, and there were many: Landry’s impromptu rendition of “La Porte en Arrière” in French, Kaiser the German shepherd and Rees’s own combination of Steppenwolf and “Puff the Magic Dragon” — who knew? Don’t even try to top this one.