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I'm trying to impress people here. You don't win friends with salad.
August 29, 2014 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Confessions of a Fat Bastard: Texas Monthly's Daniel Vaughn on the life of a full-time barbecue writer.

"Since Texas Monthly named me the nation’s first and only full-time barbecue editor in March 2013 (previously), my health has been a topic of international discussion. My job requires that I travel from one end of the state to the other eating smoked brisket, one of the fattiest cuts on the steer. And I can’t forget to order the pork ribs, sausage, and beef ribs. Of course my diet is going to raise eyebrows. Including those of my doctor."
posted by porn in the woods (47 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
(my 100th FPP - have a great BBQ-filled Labor Day weekend!)
posted by porn in the woods at 10:39 PM on August 29 [22 favorites]


Dying to be famous?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


If he steers clear of the cornbread, beans, mashed potatoes, sweet tea and sweet potatoes he'll be fine. Cool gig though!
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 11:04 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


Yeah, no matter what the silly paleo people say, fat cuts of meat will give you tons of bad cholesterol no matter how little sugar / carbohydrates you eat.

Also, there's plenty of sugar in the best barbeque. I should know - put brown sugar on my ribs before smoking them for four hours just the other day.

Still, good barbeque is a fine, fine thing, and I can't help but envying the guy a bit.
posted by koeselitz at 11:15 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


There are less fufilling careers and you likely have one.

texasmonthly.com has been doing some good work lately.
posted by vapidave at 11:19 PM on August 29 [6 favorites]


I knew that high-carb diets tended to decrease HDL (good cholesterol, bad effect) while low-carb diets can increase LDL (bad cholesterol, bad effect), but just learned about particle size. And then there are the hormones and toxic metabolites and such that accumulate in the animal fat over its lifetime...

If I were him, I would review the barbecue and sides separately, or eat relatively conservative amounts of both. On proofread I wonder why I said "separately" and I guess it's because it's easier to digest one or the other and to have more accurate tasting descriptions if you're not mixing smoky meat with sides, even if they are intended to be consumed together. Or at least when the sides are vegetarian/vegan as an olive branch to your possible veg/veg reader.

If the job is really about nothing but the meat, then gorge yourself if the meat calls for it, and consistently measure how much you gorge yourself as a factor in your review.

I find that BBQ always produces smoky death heartburn when sides are involved because it takes much longer to digest a combination of pure, acid-lovin' should-be-easy-to-digest meat alongside starches and carbs and fruity things like apples or vegetable matter like coleslaw or whatever than it does pure meat.

But if you just eat the meat, you might gorge yourself so much that you still end up with the same heartburn and sads, especially if you're a sauce lover, which will naturally be used to make up for the lack of carbs in the absence of sides.
posted by aydeejones at 12:20 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


or eat relatively conservative amounts of both.

Moderation in all things.
posted by mikelieman at 2:55 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


He could stand to lose some weight but he's not the fattest guy I've ever seen. More than eating all the fat, I would worry eating too much smoked meat would increase his chance of getting colon cancer. It is delicious though.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:58 AM on August 30


Man, I want that job.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:41 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


You only need one or two bites to review a dish. If you had to eat the whole thing, every food judge would be morbidly obese by now
posted by Renoroc at 3:53 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


There are less fufilling filling careers and
posted by oceanjesse at 4:08 AM on August 30


Moderation in all things.

Moderation can be good, but some people take it way too far.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:26 AM on August 30 [13 favorites]


I've heard this silliness about "You don't win friends with salad" - what idiot said that? Salad is delicious. Salad is gorgeous and satisfying. People ask me for recipes. Cobb salad, chop chop, chef's salad, Caeser salad (with homemade croutons), Thai cucumber salad, lemon cole slaw, ceviche, tarragon chicken salad, - that's just some of the C's of my salad repertoire.
posted by goofyfoot at 4:52 AM on August 30 [9 favorites]


"You don't win friends with salad" - what idiot said that?

Homer Simpson.
posted by grouse at 5:01 AM on August 30 [23 favorites]


You only need one or two bites to review a dish. If you had to eat the whole thing, every food judge would be morbidly obese by now

The best part of watching the Food Network tour shows is that once your attention is drawn to the cut-away between the first bite -- cut -- host spitting out food -- cut -- enthusiastic praise, you can never unsee it.
posted by mikelieman at 5:22 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


I basically think people should mind their own business. He's not dumb - he knows the risks and he's decided for himself that his level of risk is acceptable. We all make those choices for ourselves all the time. He doesn't need to answer to us.
posted by Aranquis at 5:33 AM on August 30 [7 favorites]


I can empathize with this guy in some small way after sharing 15 pounds of meat with some friends last night. Urrrghhh...

I was trying to do a jokey "Previously" but looking through past FPPs there isn't one on Porkin Across America.
posted by Joe Chip at 5:36 AM on August 30


In the famous words of many a fine film,"This is the life he chose. This is the life he lives" I praise his choice, he is pursuing a dream wreathed in smoke whose ascent was once considered offerings to the gods, "for I sacrificed meats wrapped in fat to be burnt" [rough quote]. This BBQ job is the second job that I have envied a person besides the guy who got a documentary series tasting beers and food across Europe.
posted by jadepearl at 5:44 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no matter what the silly paleo people say, fat cuts of meat will give you tons of bad cholesterol no matter how little sugar / carbohydrates you eat.

The primary reason saturated fat has historically had a bad reputation is that it increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL, the kind that raises the risk for heart attacks. But the relationship between saturated fat and LDL is complex, said Dr. Chowdhury. In addition to raising LDL cholesterol, saturated fat also increases high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. And the LDL that it raises is a subtype of big, fluffy particles that are generally benign. Doctors refer to a preponderance of these particles as LDL pattern A.

The smallest and densest form of LDL is more dangerous. These particles are easily oxidized and are more likely to set off inflammation and contribute to the buildup of artery-narrowing plaque. An LDL profile that consists mostly of these particles, known as pattern B, usually coincides with high triglycerides and low levels of HDL, both risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.

The smaller, more artery-clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat, but by sugary foods and an excess of carbohydrates, Dr. Chowdhury said. “It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines,” he said. “If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.”

posted by Metafilter Username at 5:57 AM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Moderation in all things.

Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:05 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


"You don't win friends with salad" - what idiot said that?

Homer Simpson.


Or, more specifically: "You don't win friends with sal-AD! You don't win friends with sal-AD! You don't win friends with sal-AD!"

Man, I was singing that yesterday and I'm a vegetarian.
posted by theweasel at 6:05 AM on August 30 [7 favorites]


Salad? Salad is what my dinner eats.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:12 AM on August 30 [9 favorites]


At least he's getting paid for it. Plenty of people eat worse every day and pay for that privilege.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
posted by Wolof at 6:14 AM on August 30


Lots of talk about his personal health, but I'm a little surprised no one has mentioned anything about the environmental impact of the meat industry.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:22 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


Yes, we'd better look down from all possible angles.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:43 AM on August 30 [30 favorites]


A buddy of mine is a writer and submitted a piece to Texas Monthly once. The rejection letter--an actual letter--he got back is so kind and folksy that he has it framed on his wall as one of the best examples of writing he's ever gotten. It's so nice and thoughtful you can't even be mad you got rejected.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:10 AM on August 30 [10 favorites]


I love barbecue but even something you love gets old if you have it literally all the time. So you have to admire someone who can keep their enthusiasm up in the face of a constant diet of brisket. I guess.
posted by tommasz at 7:20 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher: "Yes, we'd better look down from all possible angles."

Eponysterical. Also... "He watches over us, from down below... Hail Satan!"
posted by symbioid at 7:34 AM on August 30


Now - if that rejection letter had been from Minnesota, on the other hand...
posted by symbioid at 7:35 AM on August 30


This is why I keep to a strict gin diet.
posted by The Whelk at 7:53 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


I read the first page of that before I stowed it away for later enjoyment, and I have to admit that my first thought was something about how body and food policing is now extended to guys too.

Also, sorta related, if you're a Mefite and you're coming to the TMBBQ Festival and want to do a meetup, there will be some of us there. Nom.
posted by immlass at 8:08 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


You don't win friends with salad.

Expected this to involve a BBBQ.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:42 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


Relatedly, Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post's restaurant critic, recently wrote a "How does he do it?" piece. Vaughn might want to consider some of it as advice for a long and prosperous career.

Sietsema eats out at DC-area restaurants 10-12 times per week, often going to the same restaurant multiple times in order to review all (or at least most of) the menu. He does all his reviewing incognito, which means he can't just have the restaurant bring out a tasting spread.

Rather than actually try to eat everything that is served -- while DC restaurants may not be serving Texas 'cue, it'd be more than enough to send you to the cath lab a few times over -- he always eats with a group of friends, each of whom gets to order something different and is then required to share bites with him so he can review. It's quite the win-win proposition; his friends get free meals, he gets to try everything without a weekly angioplasty, and the restaurants, well, the restaurants are none the wiser.

I wouldn't think that Vaughn would have trouble coming up with a few dozen friends who'd be happy to assist him in his duties.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:35 AM on August 30


Sietsema's covering a relatively dense metropolitan area, though, while Vaughn is apparently covering all of Texas (and logging a lot of miles doing so.) He specifically mentions that as being a particularly challenging aspect of the job in TFA.
posted by kagredon at 10:33 AM on August 30


> Vaughn might want to consider some of it as advice for a long and prosperous career.

Vaughn's piece says that does this when he can, but that carrying passengers becomes a burden on a mileage-heavy schedule, especially because most of them don't know better than to pace themselves the way he does. And he specifically says he rarely eats everything he's served.

Otherwise, this strategy is standard for restaurant reviewers; A few years ago I had an acquaintance with a restaurant reviewing gig and got roped in for free meals a couple times in exactly the arrangement Sietsema describes.
posted by ardgedee at 11:58 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


I have* moved away from the Great State of Texas, but you can have my Texas Monthly subscription when you pry it from my cold, dead mailbox. Note to self: Install actual mailbox on house. Between this magazine and finally finding a decent Texas BBQ joint in Seattle, I can avoid giving all of my monthly salary to Alaska Airlines for tickets back home. Even the electronic version (yes, I still get a paper copy, but it's unwieldy when reading on the bus) smells of BBQ and mesquite trees.

* Intentionally done, but not without a little bit of regret. The kind of foods I'm used to just aren't found in any quantity in the top-left corner of the map. If you grew up, like I did, with a strong dislike of seafood, Seattle's menu can be a little limiting beyond a cheeseburger or overpriced steak. I'll still take the 891 "fusion food" restaurants over having Governor Perry at the top of my state-of-residence's org chart.
posted by fireoyster at 11:59 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


"Moderation in all things."

Especially moderation.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 1:19 PM on August 30


"texasmonthly.com has been doing some good work lately."

They are only just starting to atone for their support of George W. In my book.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:49 PM on August 30


I just want to say that I have in fact won friends and influenced people with salad. It can be done. Salads need not be boring!

But BBQ... whether it's Texas or North Carolina or Missouri or just fuck it here's a big honking chunk of pork that's been cooked for twelve hours over the slowest heat... well I'm an atheist but good BBQ might be able to persuade me otherwise. Melting, flavourful, amazing mouthfeel meat is something that is a joy to behold upon the tongue.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:09 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


I'm just glad I already have a BBQ planned for tomorrow and I currently have 13lbs of brisket on my smoker going right now, otherwise I would be very hungry as a result of this article.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:23 AM on August 31


Otherwise, this strategy is standard for restaurant reviewers;

Typically when I go out to eat with my friends we all get something different so we can share. Now I want to try to subtly mention our strategy while the server is around, make 'em wonder.
posted by solotoro at 2:26 AM on August 31


Fireoyster, please share your Texas BBQ joint. The best place I have found is Raining Ribs on Lake City Way.
posted by prodigalsun at 2:55 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Forget cholesterol, the biggest hazard of this job is the meat burps.
posted by benbenson at 6:07 AM on August 31


Nah, it's the meat sweats.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:16 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Meat burps are a symptom of that death heartburn I mentioned. The worst is if you indulge in sauce, sides, and drink. Basically everything you add to your stomach slows digestion of whatever is already in there and liquids while eating dissolve your digestive enzymes in a cauldron of proto barf. The worst meat burp is on the second day and is accompanied by notes of smoke infused stomach acid.
posted by aydeejones at 8:22 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


The best place I have found is Raining Ribs on Lake City Way.

I lived in Texas for fourteen years and that's my go-to as well. (As an added bonus, my daughter has unusual dietary intolerances not covered by your standard soy/nut/gluten/whatever allergy labeling, and when I called to inquire about their ingredients, they had answers for me instantly and told me what they could work around and how much lead time they would need. When I say "instantly," I mean they picked up the phone and said "hello?" and I said "Do you use high fructose corn syrup, honey, or apple juice concentrate in your sauces or sides?" and the guy said "No high fructose corn syrup or apple juice concentrate in anything, we use honey in the cornbread and the green beans, anything else you need?" It was really nice.)
posted by KathrynT at 10:14 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


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