While in Austin, we set out once again to find the perfect barbecue. This was one of the main objectives my husband had in Texas. It seemed like a fairly easy task; however, he holds to very high standards and nothing seemed to “meat” them.
After a taste of barbecue in Dallas and Fort Worth, he Googled and found a backyard pit in Austin. This was it!
I’m not a huge barbecue fan. It’s great on occasion just not consecutively, so as we drove towards this stand, I made Nelson promise this would be our last attempt at great Texan barbecue.
Our first impressions were not good to say the least. We were in the middle of a run-down neighborhood. A shack, littered with graffiti, sat closed down in front of the stand, which seemed to fit the bill of a typical midwestern fair set up.
I looked at Nelson skeptically, and he turned to me with a shrug, “Should we leave the car?”
I smiled comically. If he was hesitating, it was because of the neighborhood we had just pulled into. We were driving a rental car and thus so far, had treated it with kid gloves.
“I mean, we could just get it to go,” he argued, interrupting my thoughts.
We climbed out of the car, headed to the back of the run-down building and up to the metal shack. For someone that’s not in love with barbecue, I do appreciate a good brisket. My mouth-watered with the thought of food, but as we approached the stand, the man at the window exclaimed, “Just sold the last of the brisket!”
Disappointed, I turned to Nelson, and we decided on the pork shoulder and ribs as substitutes with a side of potato salad. While he gathered the food, I loaded the sauce into containers, and we returned to the car with a plan to stop at the next fast food parking lot to eat.
So we began driving back to Dallas with the smell of barbecue tingling through our noses. The interstate was congested with traffic, so the GPS began to give us an alternative route or perhaps I should have said the “stranded-in-no-where-Texas-sight-seeing” route. And that’s exactly how we felt.
After the first 10 minutes, Nelson encouraged me to go ahead and start eating. It was already approaching 3:00, but I told him I’d wait for us to pull over. With another 10 minutes passing and nothing in sight, he again encouraged me to “just eat the potato salad”. This seemed like a great compromise for my stomach. I dug through our bag searching for a fork or spoon. We did grab a fork or spoon, didn’t we? But there was nothing…bummer.
So we again waited. Another 10 minutes passed and now Nelson told me to just use the lid on the potato salad and eat. I brushed off this comment with, “That’ll make a mess.”
But 10 more minutes, and it hit me, we wait too long and this food isn’t going to be any good. So with hunger setting in and the waste of potential food that sat at my feet, I dug out the potato salad, broke the lid in two and dipped it into the container.
A salty-sour-mustard-vinegar taste hit my mouth with alarm. I puckered and attempted not to gag. Dipping the homemade spoon again, I offered some to Nelson. It hit his lips and he exclaimed, “That is the worst potato salad I’ve ever tasted!” I laughed hard.
Yet we were hungry, so despite all reason we continued to spoon the tart yellow potatoes out of the bowl. With the last few bites, Nelson began to whimper pathetically, complaining with humor about the medicine I was making him take. It was truly as bad as a potato salad can get.
Now it was time for the barbecue. I attempted to spread napkins across our laps and without making too much of a mess, spoon the meats onto bread. Nelson is a sauce guy, so in addition to meats, I carefully cracked open these containers for him to try. However, the flavors weren’t to his liking; instead, he asked me just to spread Chick-fil-a honey bbq packets on top. I did as he asked, trying to ignore the mess I was making of my hands.
We ate these sandwiches and began on the ribs. Since Nelson was driving, I had to tear his meat from the ribs and slowly pass it to him. My hands began to fill with barbecue and rub in our precious rental. Somewhere in the back of my head, I told myself I’d just wipe my hands off with napkins when everything was through.
We always keep napkins in our vehicles, but again this wasn’t our vehicle. This was the once spotless rental car we were teetering on making the worse mess ever inside.
I was now deep in the trenches of the barbecue pit, feeling rather carnivorous, tearing shreds of meat from the bone, and not making any apologies for the way I looked. We finished the meats in the middle of Texas country with not a fast-food chain in sight.
It was then that I realized my grave mistake. I glanced down miserably at my hands. Smothered in a grimy mess of barbecue rubs and grease, I hunted through the bag for the napkins–there was absolutely none. None in the bag. None in the car. None in the MIA fast-food pit-stop we had now been driving towards for over an hour.
I glanced down with shame at my hands. I had lost all humanity tearing apart meat but 10 minutes ago and now I didn’t have the humility to lick them clean. It just seemed so uncouth. Nelson realized my problem but had a good laugh at my expense. It was now drizzling down a light rain outside, so in desperation I rolled down my window and held my hands out.
I felt a few drops but not enough to wash away the epic pile of grime that smothered me. Rolling up the window, I sat with my hands curled to avoid covering anything else.
For the first time, we sat in miserable silence. This was going to be a long day.
Just then, an itch on my neck hit me with terrible force. It needed scratched, yet I had no hands to scratch it with. To tell Nelson would result in terrible ridicule and laughter, but I was deep in the barbecue pit. Sure enough he teased me and laughed at my woes. It became a really long car ride, where one hour turned into two and three.
Eventually like a mirage in the desert, a gas station appeared. Nelson promptly pulled over, and we both went in and came out clean!
We are all deep in the barbecue pit. It may not be a literal barbecue pit, but we have all dug ourselves deep into doing something wrong somewhere along the way. We may try to even clean it up on our own, but we never have the right tools. It’s the same thing with sin and God. We all do things wrong, but we can’t clean them up on our own. Only God, through His son Jesus’s death, can offer us the napkin we need. We usually accept this cleaning by expressing to God in prayer our need for Him and desire to be forgiven by His son. I never want to eat barbecue like that again, and I will forever be thankful for my oasis when I was deep in the barbecue pit.