In the admittedly insular world of barbecue, Daniel Vaughn is Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mark Twain and probably even Bono. He is obsession and prolific reportage, rolled into one T-shirt and baseball cap-wearing package. He’s also the barbecue editor at Texas Monthly magazine. This is a full-time job.
On Thursday night, Vaughn stood on the little stage at Jack’s BBQ and delivered an almost professorial lecture on the origins of barbecue, aided by a slide show of glistening smoked meats in various forms and centered on the barbecue particulars of his home state. He touched on antebellum barbecue recreations based on slave narrative recipes for mop sauce, how Midwest packing house culture gave rise to Texas’s love of brisket, and how those colossal beef ribs are a relatively recent development (and take up tons of room in a smoker and yield hardly any profit).
People love to grouse that Seattle has very little in the way of barbecue culture, but judging from the packed house that turned out to listen to Vaughn, the tradition of smoking meat for hours on end has strong roots here…it’s just happening in people’s backyards.
As for the culture Seattle does have, the barbecue czar managed a few stops around Seattle earlier in the day, sampling still more smoked meat with Jack’s BBQ owner Jack Timmons, whom he’s known since Timmons attended Texas A&M’s Department of Meat Sciences Barbecue Summer Camp in Austin.
Besides Jack’s, what met with the barbecue snob's approval? “Good brisket today at Bourbon and Bones,” he told the crowd. And both Vaughn and Timmons raved about a place I’ve been meaning to try—Campfire BBQ. Campfire is a food truck and catering operation; it sets up shop for the public just a few days a week, but you can find the schedule on the truck’s Facebook page.
Oh, and if you're interested in those giant beef ribs, Jack's serves them on Tuesdays.