An open letter to Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly
A sandwich at Grady's Barbecue in Dudley, North Carolina. Photo by Denny Culbert.
June 19, 2013
I like you. Over the last year, we’ve eaten pulled pork and drunk Korean moonshine at Dockery Farm near the Mississippi Delta town of Indianola. We’ve drunk beer and eaten barbecue crabs on your home turf in Texas. Two weeks ago, we gathered in New York City to drink whiskey on the street and eat our fill of whole hog at the annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.
You’re a pretty humble guy. Especially when I consider that your new book Prophets of Smoked Meat is getting all kinds of deserved acclaim. Take into account that you just landed one of the few newly created jobs in print journalism—barbecue editor of Texas Monthly magazine—and you’ve got reasons to be all puffed up. But, in my experience, you’re not. If anything, you appear more wide-eyed and thankful for your writerly good fortune than ever.
Which leads me to my query: Why did you sign on with this hubristic Texas Monthly outfit? I recognize that there’s a long history of barbecue braggadocio, especially in the South, slung by one state advocate at another. It’s done to drum up readership. And I hear it works. But Daniel, you really want to associate yourself with this sort of bluster-and-preen style of journalism? Do you really intend to stand behind that Texas Monthly declaration, the one slathered all over their recent cover, the one that declares the fifty best barbecue joints in the world are all in Texas?
You’re better than that, kind sir. Knowing you’re in the midst of a grand barbecue world tour, and knowing that you have had the chance to eat ’cue from the likes of Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina, on that tour, I know you know better. Please tell me that your editors forced this untenable position on you and yours. In my experience, that’s where the problems usually start. With editors. Please tell me that’s so.
John T. Edge
on behalf of the Oxford American magazine