But 2018 marked our final year of attendance.
It used to be a simple matter to run out to Brady for the big barbecue party. We’d load the crew in the old Econoline van and drive a couple hours up through the Hill Country from Austin. By the time we’d be 50 yards deep into Richards Park, strangers would be passing us cold cans of beer and hot plates of smoked meat.
That’s how the roughly 8,000 inhabitants of McCulloch County, Texas do it.
Now that we live in New Orleans, Brady is some 630 miles distant but we never let that stand in the way of a good time. For the past few years we’ve been flying on a big jet airplane to Austin then driving the rest of the way to the nigh dead-center of Texas.
But last year something changed: the organizers decided to milk the cook off for all it’s worth and add an extra day to the affair.
The cooking teams were livid. What used to be an easily-managed two day affair all of a sudden turned into a debacle. Instead of cooking all night on Friday, turning into the judges on Saturday and packing up to drive home on Sunday, everything was bumped a day.
Sunday became the turn-in day, and Monday became the drive-home day.
Teams were cussing something fierce and we missed the awards ceremony for the first time since the 90s.
And for what? So the Brady cook off could imitate all the other Texas barbecue shootouts by adding categories for beans, margaritas, ribs, and chicken?
The Brady Cook Off was based on the narrow, humble shoulders of common Boer and Spanish goats. We can get all the other category meats at any barbecue joint in Texas. What you can’t normally get is goat. It’s just not common.
By adding an extra day of competition, the cooking teams are plumb wore out come Sunday. After partying their asses off on Friday day, Friday night, Saturday day, and Saturday night a bunch of the boys looked like they needed to be checked into the nearest rehab come Sunday.
That extra day also completely fucks up Memorial Day for the teams. If you have to drive back home to Beaumont from Brady on Monday you’re not going to have time to load up the backyard smoker with briskets and hot guts for your family and buddies who live in your neighborhood, and are used to a killer Memorial day feast.
Back in 1974 the Brady Goat Cook Off got rolling with 16 teams. Nowadays there are over 200 with a waiting list should anybody drop out.
We spoke with several teams who said they’re not coming back to Brady anymore and who can blame them. The organizers turned the best barbecue shootout in the entire state into just another cook off.