Generally, when an outside-of-Texas writer questions the tradition of Texas barbecue I go into rabid hound dog mode-ATTACK! ATTACK! But I’ve learned over the years to occasionally take heed of the author’s words, set a spell, take my shoes off, and listen.
Josh Ozersky has earned my approbation.
Speaking on the landscape of modern barbecue in the Wall Street Journal Ozersky says: “originality is as frightening as a hand reaching up out of a freshly dug grave.” That’s tight y’all.
And he’s right.
I’m a strict constructionist when it comes to smoked meat, and could not care less about “originality” when it comes to barbecue-but I don’t have to. I live in the buckle of the biggest barbecue belt on earth, and can gorge on traditionalist meat all day-every day.
Ozersky lives in the frozen barbecue tundra of the Northeast where barbecue tradition is scant. He’s to be forgiven for praising originality in an area where folks are grateful for whatever smoked meat they can get in their gullet. Quality and tradition be damned. Put barbecue on a plate and you can find a New Yorker, staggering down a windy, crime-ridden boulevard who’ll be happy to have it.
Ozersky is not perfect. In a separate article in Esquire he goes off to la la land saying “Austin has one great barbecue and one very good one (Franklin’s/Stiles Switch) and Lockhart has one great one and one good one (Kreuz/Smitty’s)”
That’s demonstrable horseshit but he’s an outsider who only gets to occasionally venture to the Great State to eat. If he spent a couple weeks down in these parts he’d realize Kreuz and Smitty’s are running on fumes in Lockhart where Black’s is king, and Austin has a handful of remarkable smoke shacks not named Franklin or Stiles Switch.
I live here.
Yesterday, in a brilliant piece in The New York Observer. Titled “Blog-Tied: How a Hunger for Clicks Drives New York’s Brutally Fickle Food Scene” Ozersky explores the never ending thirst for viewership in the blogoverse.
It’s an incredible romp through the modern world of food writing where “The blogs give their blessings freely but withdraw them soon after: they’re like children who shower a puppy with adoration and then quickly regret its existence”
The next big thing is always on our radar. Our birth notice series consistently skyrockets readership when we opine on a brand new restaurant or bar that’s about to take flight. Our internal governors have to kick in on a daily basis when it comes eating time.
When was the last time you ate at La Traviata? It’s the best Italian restaurant in Austin but gets approximately zero coverage in the dozens of blogs we scan on a weekly basis. Zero hype, just mind-blowing food coming out of Chef Gilchrist’s kitchen every single night.
Continuing with his editorial Ozersky says: “Older print food writers, resentful and aghast at their sudden obsolescence, invariably mourn the absence of thoughtful, knowledgeable expert criticism.”
It’s got to be tough. Imagine starting your food journalism career in the paleo-era of the 80s or (gasp) the 70s. You’d be looking at these whippersnapper bloggers of today with shrinking horror.
Graying alt-weeklies and dailies across the country are trying to maintain relevance in the face of meganaut national blogging platforms like Serious Eats, Eater and the rusting hulk of Chowhound.
It’s a tough way to earn a buck.
Ozersky speaks, hilariously, on Mission Chinese “The gale of hype fills the sails of the place, and the print writers rev their noisy old outboard motors to keep up. Then comes the post: Mission Chinese is the Times’ Best New Restaurant of 2012. OMFG! The sky’s the limit for Mission Chinese.”
You’d be forgiven if you thought Larry McGuire, Sonya Cote and Paul Qui constituted the whole of the Austin food scene. Any one of the 3 could urinate in a back alley and Eater Austin would be all over it with breathless coverage.
Got to keep those click-heavy names in constant rotation. Ozersky “ALL THESE SITES HAVE to post many times a day, because they do a volume business, and even tens of thousands of visits a day can barely cover the cost of doing business.”
Back in our heyday we’d author 120 articles per month on this site til we were all huddled up in a corner begging for it to stop. This is a high burnout field and we slowly realized we needed to back it down or we’d have to close up shop.
Nowadays we pen roughly 60 articles per month. Respectable. Sustainable.
Ozersky is all over the place. He writes for numerous magazines and online platforms. The best way to keep up with this maniac is via https://twitter.com/OzerskyTV where he puts links up to his latest work.
and read that New York Observer article http://observer.com/2013/05/blog-tied-how-a-hunger-for-clicks-drives-new-yorks-brutally-fickle-food-scene/