Foodways Texas, Documenting The Culture of Texas Food, Hosts Suds and Smoke at DEBC Monday
If you ever lay awake at night and ponder barbecue joints, or if you plot weekends based on slices of smoky brisket and spicy sausage, then you should definitely meet Foodways Texas. You could be a match made in meat heaven.
Foodways Texas, Elgin's Southside Market
Foodways Texas is a group of chefs, journalists, scholars or anyone who has any interest in the historical value of Texas fare whose collective mission is to "preserve, promote and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas."
Marvin Bendele is the executive director of Foodways Texas, which is technically an "affiliated institute" of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin
Several years ago, Bendele took a class at UT with Elizabeth Engelhardt, one of the original members of Foodways Texas. Bendele and the rest of his class were assigned to hitting the back roads to collect historical accounts from barbecue joints around Central Texas. Some of those stories are now on the Foodways Texas website. But, the journey in collecting them never really stops.
It made Bendele consider the food traditions in his own family, who came to Texas from Alsace, France, in the 1840's. The important theme and message is that we all have personal historical accounts of culture and food.
"We don't want to lose those traditions," Bendele said. "And, in a lot of cases, we don't know exactly what they were doing, so it's important to try to collect those stories so we can look back at that culture with a critical eye."
Much of Texas is speckled with ethnic conclaves rich in tradition that have influenced state and local fare. The most notable example, perhaps, is the German and Czech communities in Central Texas and their roles in creating Texas-style barbecue -- places like Lockhart, Luling, Taylor and Shiner.
It's not all just smoke and barbecue though. In an effort to highlight the Gulf Coast, this past weekend Foodways Texas partnered with Saint Arnold Brewing to give bivalve aficionados a taste of appellation oysters from various Gulf reefs, like Ladies' Pass, Champagne Bay and Pepper Grove. Normally Gulf oysters are just Gulf oysters. But, this weekend the simple act of labeling the specific reef where the oysters were harvested, as commonly done with oysters from the Northeast, gave a sense of history to the dinner.
Suds and Smoke
Another event aimed at highlighting Texas cuisine is this coming Monday (February 25) at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., called Suds and Smoke. Bendele explains these events are purely an effort to expose more people the Foodways Texas and its goals of preserving Texas food culture.
The list of chefs participating at the brewery dinner is an all-star roster: Tim Byres of Smoke, David Uygur of Lucia, Justin Fourton from Pecan Lodge, Brian Luscher from The Grape and Terry Chandler from Fred's Texas Café.
Tickets are $65 for non-members and $50 for members. The menu includes lamb barbacoa tacos, mesquite fired tablitas, pepper crushed pork belly and mussels, n'duja with grilled bread.
The Dallas dinner, like the Houston oyster extravaganza, is an attempt to promote the 3rd Annual Foodways Texas Symposium this April 4 through 6 in Austin.
"We really want to connect back to that larger theme," said Bendele "We really make no money off the symposium. We blow it out. Our larger goal is to build a fellowship around Texas food culture and drive membership in order to fund future oral histories."
The three-day symposium in Austin in April is a certainly a culinary blowout. Using the tag line "Our Barbecue, Ourselves" it lassos every barbecue joint you've ever wanted to try into one spot along with many spectacular chefs from around the state, among them Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue; Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge; Patrick Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville, Tennessee; Levi Good from Goode Co.; and Greg Gatlin of Gatlin's BBQ in Houston. David Uygur of Lucia in Dallas will also be there.
There are also daily barbecue sessions and speakers including Bryan Bracewell from the Southside Market and Barbeque in Elgin; Daniel Delany of Briskettown in New York; Daniel Vaughn, the BBQ Snob from Dallas; Rob Walsh of the Houstonian; Tim Byers of Smoke; and more.
Tickets are $280 per person, or $250 for members, which includes five full meals. The Thursday "welcoming dinner" is courtesy of Franklin Barbecue, which in this case doesn't require standing in a line for three hours. That's a bargain in itself.
Consider this coming Monday at DEBC a taste of what Foodways Texas is about and, furthermore, what the April symposium will entail. If you've any interest in the culture behind Texas fare or have smoky dreams of barbecue every night, you may have found a new home.