When we moved to New Jersey almost 20 years ago, we kept telling the Realtor we wanted to live somewhere that felt “rural.” It quickly became apparent that a Jersey guy’s idea of rural was very different than a Texas ex-pat’s, because Chris — Chris Dork as he was dubbed by the kids — kept showing us homes where you could hear the highway noise, or homes that had a strip mall in the back yard.
Chris was a nice enough guy. He’d clearly picked up on what we wanted, but he just didn’t get it. “Doesn’t this feel rural?” he’d ask, and we’d all shake our heads. Finally, one of my daughters had enough, so when the Realtor again exclaimed about the rural feel of the urban property he was showing us, she demanded, “Where are the cows?”
Having been born in the Great State, she intuitively understood what the Dork could not, and it was her question that eventually led us in a direction that wasn’t exactly “cow-y,” but at least was more rural — if you allowed your imagination to stretch a little bit.
Texas does indeed have a unique relationship with cows, and that’s why it really wasn’t too surprising when I came face-to-face with one last week, less than 24 hours after arriving back in my homeland.
On a tour of the Back 40 of my sister-in-law’s new ranch (we rode a golf cart, not horses), there was Old Bossy and some of her pals, contentedly chewing their cud, oblivious to the fact that there were several very fine barbecue restaurants within a 10 mile radius.
After the ranch tour, it was off to one of those barbecue establishments where we ate — drum roll — cow!
You just can’t get proper beef brisket in the northeast, which is why I’ve learned to smoke my own. But I still can’t do it as well as most of the barbecue shacks that dot the Texas landscape like pizza shops in New Jersey. We ate at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue in New Braunfels, where the food was delicious — but not as good as I’d had at the mothership in Llano.
There are so many good barbecue shacks in Texas that you could spend an entire two-week vacation there, eat smoked cow at a different place every day and never get tired of it. My trip last week was a short one, however, and I didn’t even come close to getting my fill.
I brought a few essential items back with me. Texas chili powder, which is just better than anything they’ve got up here. A six-pack of Lone Star Beer — the National Beer of Texas. And a six-pack of Big Red soda, the very best thing to drink with your barbecue … unless you happen to have a cold Lone Star.
Now I’m back up here, looking out my New Jersey window. It’s really not that rural, but what I’m really regretting is that my suitcase just wasn’t big enough to squeeze in a cow.