If you are the type who likes to, you know, share your pleasure with a group, who believes the experience of getting sticky fingers and sticky faces is heightened when others are involved, then next week you will be in hog heaven.
Meat Week, the weeklong barbecue debauch, or what might be called a carnivorgy, starts Sunday, Jan. 29. And if Smoke Signals has gone a tad overboard with the innuendo, it’s because any true barbecue hound knows that the pleasures of the (smoked) flesh can be rapturous and are intended as a communal experience.
You can, I suppose, make barbecue for one. But you don’t. What you do is make barbecue for 20. You only eat it by yourself the next day for lunch. (Or if you’re on the road and don’t know anyone in town.)
And that, the shared barbecue experience, is the idea behind Meat Week. Fifty, 70, 100, whatever number of people, show up at a given place at a given time to eat barbecue together. Like the song says, people who need barbecue are the luckiest people in the world.
I gotta tell ya, I like the idea but hate the name. It isn’t Meat Week. It’s Barbecue Week. There isn’t a steakhouse or burger joint on the itinerary. It’s all about low-and-slow.
Of course, I get it: Barbecue doesn’t rhyme with week. But Meat Week just sounds so, so. . .Meat Week. Like Americans need a special occasion to eat meat?
Barbecue, though, that’s different. It isn’t eaten willy-nilly, as meat is. Bacon for breakfast, salami for lunch, all the animals on the ark for dinner. Even in ‘cue-crazy Texas, barbecue, despite being commonplace, is an indulgence. You load friends into a car and drive somewhere to eat at a new, or favorite, joint. That happens maybe once a month. You get together at a local institution for dinner perhaps every couple of weeks. (This schedule assumes a normal, well-adjusted person, even a normal, well-adjusted barbecue hound, not a driven nutcase such as myself and a few others I could name, but won’t.)
But I digress.
Meat Week is growing. More than 20 cities across the country now participate. There’s even a Meat Week in The Hague (go figure).
Called with tongue firmly in jowl, “the holiday time forgot,” Meat Week organizers recently penned a “BBQ carol” titled “The Eight Nights of Meat Week” — “six briskets smoking,” “eight porks a-pulling.” You can almost see the twinkling lights, can’t you?
The Washington crew has gotten into the spirit by using the District of Columbia flag as the inspiration for its logo.
Last year was extraordinarily active for the Washington-area barbecue scene, and locals are capitalizing on that activity by adding an eighth night, one more than the seven stops in 2011. Three featured restaurants didn’t even exist at this time last year: Hill Country in Penn Quarter, Memphis Barbeque in Crystal City and Smoke and Barrel in Adams Morgan (which, due to its small size, is requiring an RSVP and, at this writing, has nearly reached capacity). A fourth, Pork Barrel BBQ in Alexandria, didn’t exist as a restaurant but its competitive barbecue team participated.
As the event grows, so do tie-ins to other things. Hill Country, for example, is using the event to throw a benefit concert for the victims of last year’s devastating wildfires in Texas. Pork Barrel will debut its Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce, unveiled earlier this month at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Urban Bar-B-Que will host participants at its newest venue, the former Urban Burger location in Rockville.
The PORC barbecue food truck team will serve from inside a brick-and-mortar restaurant for the night. Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company closes the week with a Super Bowl Sunday brunch at its Glover Park location.
One of the highlights of the week will remain unchanged, though: a trip to a Safeway parking lot in Northeast where the hardcore will stand in line (last year, in a cold rain) at a take-out window in a converted school bus to order the celebrated meaty pork ribs of the legendary Mr. P’s.
For the schedule and details, check out Washington’s Meat Week Web site.
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