Before the pleasure of Central Texas barbecue, there is always pain. For the pitmasters who make a life’s work of the region’s meats, there’s the pain of the heat and the labour, the punishing hours and the necessarily failure-riven accretion of experience and skill. The smoke-scented, salt-and-pepper crusted, prodigiously juicy beef brisket that is the measure of Central Texas’s best barbecue pits starts out tough and collagen choked; when cooked in the sear heat of a wood fire, it is prone to Naugahyde dryness and chew.
The pain for Central Texas barbecue’s customers is a different sort of pain, and you can see it first-hand of late in the daily lineups outside an industrial building in Leaside. The pain for the customers at Adamson Barbecue, which since its launch last April has opened for a few hours each weekday, only at lunchtime and only until the meat runs out, is the pain of anticipation.
The smells of smouldering oak and sweet, rendered beef and pork fat hit even before you enter. Once inside, you watch and wait as owner Adam Skelly holds court at the shop’s cutting counter, pulling giant racks of spare ribs, fat house-made sausage links, wobbly hunks of pork butt and, most importantly, whole beef briskets, from a holding cabinet, and then slices and portions them onto butcher paper-covered trays, one single order at a time.
Try as I might, I can’t think of many other meat-based experiences that elicit such powerful pangs of hunger and impatience. On the plus side, the pleasure at Adamson is more than equal to the pain of the wait.