I've forgotten a lot of things over the course of my life. I forgot how to play piano. I definitely forgot eight years of French. But the one thing I know I will never forget is the old Pace picante sauce commercial, where a group of hardscrabble cowboys are offered a jar of the wrong salsa instead of Pace picante sauce, which is "made by folks in San Antonio, who know what picante sauce should taste like." Then someone reads the new jar and says, "This stuff's made in New York City!" And everyone in the room leaps to their feet and bellows in unison, "New York City?"
Everyone of a certain age remembers this commercial, and it was all I could think about this weekend as I watched seemingly everyone on Twitter boil over with rage after Munchies — Vice's food site — published a tweet saying that Brooklyn barbecue was taking over the world.
It all started innocently enough. Munchies shared a link to a 2014 article about Fette Sau, a very popular Williamsburg barbecue restaurant.
The text of the tweet was just the article's headline: "Why is Brooklyn barbecue taking over the world?" But the rest of Twitter took one look at that headline and the pretty sad-looking photo that accompanied it and immediately turned into the Pace Picante cowboys.
"New York City?" Twitter screamed collectively.
If someone served that plate at a Texas summer camp, the kids would riot— Mark R. Yzaguirre (@markyzaguirre) March 4, 2018
I thought that was a prison food tray.— Jason (@J4Berg) March 5, 2018
The photo in this tweet is an accurate representation of how much mediocre Brooklyn barbecue you can buy for what it would cost to feed a family of four some genuinely good barbecue in a part of the country where they’re actually good at making it https://t.co/3IV2oJUxuI— Amanda Mull (@amandamull) March 4, 2018
Every time I worry that America is unfixably divided, I see something like "Brooklyn barbecue" inspire universal community loathing, and have hope.— FineWereFineEverythingsFineHat (@Popehat) March 4, 2018
Representatives from Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgia, Nebraska, and Oklahoma all showed up to laugh at the Brooklyn barbecue. Of course, then they started fighting amongst themselves about whose barbecue was the real barbecue, but that's a pretty authentic part of barbecue culture too.
Munchies' photo did not help the case much. Yet a quick look through Fette Sau's Instagram account reveals some much more appealing photos.
More than 3,000 people rushed to comment on the tweet, but most people were reacting to the photo and the headline, not the Munchies article, which never actually argues that Fette Sau's "Brooklyn barbecue" is the best barbecue. On the contrary, author Nicholas Gill wrote that, "Few would argue that the barbecue being served in Brooklyn is better than in Texas."
The article was about how Brooklyn's nontraditional barbecue was "taking over the world" in that it was being copied by restaurants in places like Spain, Colombia, and Panama. And the article specifically asks, "But why aren't those countries taking cues from Texas or Kansas City?"
"The barbecue being assimilated in places like Colombia, Spain, Panama, Sweden, England, and Japan (and even other parts of the U.S.) is not the killer 'cue from fabled Texas BBQ cities like Lockhart or Austin. Or even the pork-centric versions with sauce in the Southeast," Gill wrote. "It's an adapted form of Southern barbecue from Brooklyn. And it all looks like it came straight out of Williamsburg."
The phenomenon probably has a lot to do with what was freaking out the barbecue cognoscenti on Twitter all weekend.
Gill posits that the hallmark of Fette Sau and several other Williamsburg barbecue restaurants is that they aren't following the rules of a classic barbecue style like that of Texas or Kansas City. That's the sort of thing that makes people shout, "What are you doing?! That's not real barbecue! This stuff's made in New York City!" But it also means that since the Brooklyn chefs already threw out the rulebook, now chefs in Spain and Colombia and Sweden have carte blanche to do their own thing, too, and make local versions of barbecue that work with their regional products and appeal to local diners' tastes.
It's not real Texas barbecue, or Kansas City barbecue, but it still might be pretty tasty for what it is. Just don't put the Swedish barbecue on Twitter, because people will freak out.
What do you think of Brooklyn's barbecue?