Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kickin' in 2012: New Boots & New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ; interior

And we're back.

The yearly holiday pilgrimages have been made.   We hit Connecticut.  We hit Texas.  It was wonderful and exhausting and bountiful, good food was had in both locations.  There are so many culinary adventures, in fact, I am absolutely spoiled for choice in writing this blog.  I almost feel like I'm cheating on someone by choosing just one to focus on! Alas, the infidelity will be rampant, my friends.

* * * 
Real Men Wear Boots.

Good ol' Cavender's
Going to Texas is always a mix of nostalgia and excitement for me.  Despite its warm familiarity I always find that there are facets of Texan culture that are utterly foreign to me.  This year, Matt decided to dive head-first into one of the ones I'd always avoided like the plague: cowboy boots.  

I suppose that nowadays maybe boots have come back into fashion for non-cowboy / western / boot-wearing people in today's pop culture, but growing up in Texas, people who wore boots were considered a subculture of their own, akin to "preps" or "nerds" or "bangers."  They were country people - "kickers," as we liked to call them - something that angsty teenagers such as I tended to avoid, fashion-wise anyway.  Well, as my luck would have it, somewhere along the way - between my mom and James getting a couple of pairs and Matt's business trip down to Denver where he caroused with all-sorts of cowboy types who wore boots with suits - Matt decided he needed to own a pair of cowboy boots.  

Initiation night for Matt's new boots.
He insisted that the afternoon we arrived into Texas we should go (almost directly) to Cavender's to get fitted.  He walked out of that place feeling (and admittedly, looking) like a million bucks in a beautiful new pair of Lucchese - boots.  They sure are mighty fine.  

My sister looked over at me and smiled and, encapsulating the great, wonderful irony of my life, said, "I don't know how you did it Brenda, but you found a cowboy."

* * *

Real Men (also) Eat BBQ While Wearing Boots.

Yes, this is the entrance.  We almost drove right by.
But back to the food (yes, I am a total truffle pig).  In keeping with the southwestern spirit Matthew had invoked, this year we finally made a long-awaited pilgrimage to a place I had only heard of in passing but my brother-in-law and step-dad had been dying to try for years:  New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ.  A mouthful - and in more ways than one.  And wouldn't you know it, just a little over a half an hour ride from my mom's house, so not too inconvenient.  The Church of Holy Smoke.
view into kitchen area from dining table

The place is beyond country.  The one-room white wooden house sits next to its namesake Baptist Church and literally sits atop concrete cinder blocks.  The paint has seen better days and so have the screen doors.  Upon approaching the front door, you are met with several bbq pits and smokers of colossal size.  The inside is no-frills, no-nonsense and old fashioned.  The bathroom can look a little intimidating but it's shockingly clean.  The seats are fold-out chairs and the decor is a charming combination of nostalgia-meets-souther-baptism.  
Good old Annie Mae Ward opened the place up by accident 20 years ago; her husband was painting the church and she was cooking him some lunch.  The smell reportedly had cars stopping off the highway and it all went from there. She has been giving most if not all her profit to the church ever since.

The story's good but the food doesn't disappoint either.  Chicken, Sausage, Brisket and Ribs.  The holy Tetralogy.  Choose your poison - they come in a 1, 2 or 3 meat plate which includes sliced white bread, potato salad, bbq beans and pickles.  If you're still hungry after the monster helping, you can have some homemade pie: pecan or buttermilk when we visited.  Delish.  The ribs and brisket were my favorites - both melt in your mouth and smokey to boot.  And their homemade bbq sauce.  There are no words.

I wouldn't call myself a BBQ connaisseur, but by simple virtue of having lived in Texas for an extended period, I have had the good graces of eating lots of it.  Some good, some bad, and some divine.  New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ falls into the latter category.  

Of course it does.

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