Shouting Into Holes
By Maximilian Alexander Quéripel
Meshack Bar-Be-Que is a shack. Surprise! It’s across the street from an odd postage-stamp size park with litter in it and some auto shops full of shiny aftermarket rims. There’s a bench and a tree stump to sit on out front while you wait for your order and the parking is just as sparse. Despite being in a weird armpit of town, people pile up in their trucks and cars five days of the week near downtown Garland Texas to taste some damn fine, pecan smoked barbecue.
Anyone who knows about Texas barbecue will tell you that central Texas is the epicenter of smoked meat. We’ve all read reviews praising the Salt Lick in Austin among others and rightly so. But all those top 10 lists and bland travel articles create a mindset that barbecue only exists in Austin and nowhere else. If you look, you can probably find it in you town-even Canada. And for added perspective, we can’t forget about the numerous bad barbecue joints across the country either. Barbecue sauce doesn’t make you a pit-master. And using the word pit-master takes barbecue to an unnecessary level of pretension. Isn’t the beauty of it supposed to be in the act of cooking a slab of meat over burning wood like our ancestors did for thousands of years? Why do we need these titles, can’t we just be happy being known as the person who cooks-the-meat-real-good? Or as “Meat Dad”. Cooking over wood is a method some people use even today, not just for BBQ, but for all of their cooking needs lets not forget. I don’t see them getting business cards printed that say ‘pitmaster’ and scented with bacon(note to self: bacon scented cards). Barbecue shouldn’t be about America-shaped steaks(someone will send me a death-threat for this) or lassos stapled into a wall next to some generic black and white photos that fail at making the experience feel authentic. Barbecue is about simple. Meshack’s is simple.
If you’re looking for a refreshing, no bullshit experience then go to Meshack’s. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t pretend like I’m above enjoying some Southwestern egg-rolls or pre-made buffalo wings (or Applebee’s happy hour sangria pitchers!), but sometimes I don’t want a cheerful waitress, cradling vinyl booth, or 70’s soft rock playing in the background. There are some days when I just want to shout into a dark hole, hand over a twenty and wait for a smoky, religious experience in a brown sack to appear on a windowsill. If you’re like me and like to shout into dark holes (caves count also) and you also eat meat, then you’ll like this place.
Meshack’s is a religious experience-in that slightly-Christian country radio station sort of way. When I had my first bite of dripping pulled pork and creamy potato salad I realized how small I am in this world. Ok, maybe more of a substantial religious experience, I admit. When I dug into the nicely crusted, pecan-smoked brisket my senses switched to a different frequency and I was able to truly appreciate the small things. A light breeze, an elderly couple holding hands or a buzzard eating road kill on an interstate median all became so beautiful. There is something infinitely appealing about a big scoop of smoky-sweet baked beans or potato salad with just the right amount of vinegar and crunch. The basics done exceedingly well will always win me over, or donuts (take note if you ever need to bribe me). Good food can provide such primal comfort, capable of conquering some of the worst days and BBQ is exceptionally good at this task. Food does just as much good for the spirit as it does for the body. No one ever said you couldn’t gnaw on a beef rib while you practice downward dog to the dismay of your peers. Maybe sneak a biscuit and some beans in your pocket to Sunday service. Sorry to everyone at this bar mitzvah, but the pulled pork in my pocket really needs some eating.
The first time I ate at this place I asked myself “What the hell are you doing with your life? Look at what these people are doing?” Surely, there is no shame in standing in a dark room and smoking meat to perfection and I wonder if the people in there know some secret to life that I don’t. When I order at the little screen window in the side of the brick wall with hand-lettered menu, I almost feel compelled to make a confession as if to feel more worthy of the magic brown bag. Maybe if the confessionals at church had an omniscient brisket-grandpa as old as the universe on the other side of the divider handing out slices of meat from his infinitely replenishing head, I’d go to church.
Bottom line, if you need some gastronomic yoga, a spiritual cleanse in the form of a hotlink or a change in pace from shouting into caves and train tunnels (you degenerates!), go to Meshack’s or find the Meshack equivalent of your area. And please, don’t bring your annoying friends that will live blog the whole thing from their phone-eating is a time worship after all! You can leave them in the vinyl booth next to some boots stapled to the wall. Namaste.